Pennsylvania Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2017-2018

  1. You are here:
  2. Home
  3. »
  4. Online Colleges »
  5. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Online Colleges and Universities

Perhaps the most exciting development in post-secondary education today is the expanding world of distance learning. The internet explosion has opened up a whole new avenue for college-level certificate and degree seekers to pursue an advanced education. Today, traditional colleges and universities, as well as a number of for-profit institutions, are offering accredited degree programs either partially- or fully-online.

The most notable providers of public online college and university programs in Pennsylvania are the four schools of the state’s Commonwealth System of Higher Education and the 14 schools of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. The Commonwealth System consists of Lincoln University, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh and the enormous Pennsylvania State University. With the exception of Lincoln University, each of the Commonwealth System’s members has extensive distance education degree, certificate and individual course programs. Online academic courses and programs offered by members of the state system can be accessed through the PA Universities Online website. Approximately 15 public 2-year community colleges located throughout the state also offer online education programs.

In addition to public online programs, there are over 75 private, not-for-profit online colleges in Pennsylvania. Private schools of note include Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and in Philadelphia, both the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University.

Philadelphia ranks as one of the three most historically significant cities in the U.S., with the others being Boston and New York City. Philadelphia is also the largest city in Pennsylvania with an approximate population of 1.5 million residents. Its importance as a center of higher education in both the state and the nation cannot be overstated. The following two sections focus on the current college and university environment in the City of Brotherly Love.

Focus on Philadelphia Colleges

Philadelphia combines a long and celebrated educational tradition with contemporary learning systems in more than 90 colleges offering on-campus and online degrees. Over 40 faculty members and graduates of Philadelphia colleges and universities have captured the prestigious Nobel Prize. In all, Philadelphia is host to two Ivy League universities, 19 4-year universities, six medical schools, eight private seminaries, three women’s colleges, eight music academies, 10 community colleges, and career schools offering 2-year degrees.

Philadelphia colleges graduate over 66,000 students each year. The University of Pennsylvania, founded by Benjamin Franklin, is ranked seventh in U.S. News & World Report’s top private universities for 2014. Its renowned business program, The Wharton School, named first among business schools in the country by U.S. News, was the first-ever graduate business program and now counts 90,000 alumni around the globe. In contemporary technology research, U.S. News ranked Drexel University’s College of Engineering in the top 150 engineering schools for 2014. Other key schools include Temple University, Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College, Moore College of Art and Design, Saint Joseph’s University and La Salle University.

Spotlighting Online Colleges in Philadelphia

Given its technological heritage, it’s only natural that online education is thriving in Philadelphia. After all, the city’s University of Pennsylvania campus developed the world’s first computer, the ENIAC, in 1946. Among colleges, universities and trade schools offering distance education in the city, U.S. News listed Philadelphia University among the best online bachelor’s degree and best online graduate business degree programs for 2014. Drexel University provides fully online, accredited bachelor’s and master’s degree and certificate programs. Popular programs are in business, communications, criminal justice, education, nursing, professional studies, technology, engineering, legal studies and clinical research. Other schools with online programs include LaSalle University, the Community College of Philadelphia, Curtis Institute of Music, Temple University and Saint Joseph’s University.

Philadelphia has an exceptional array of student extracurricular diversions, from world-class symphonic music to rowdy national sports venues, colonial historical sites and museums, as well as a local cuisine known for soft pretzels, cheesesteak sandwiches and hoagies. Visitors and residents alike take in the Liberty Bell Center, The Franklin Institute, the Italian Market and Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Pennsylvania College Tuition, Fees and Living Expenses

College education costs in general fall under three distinct headings: tuition, fees and living expenses. First and foremost comes tuition. Tuition refers to the basic charges for student instruction and other teaching-related services. Tuition rates vary significantly due to factors such as geographic location, specific course programs, and whether or not a school is public or private. In-state tuition for qualifying Pennsylvania residents in 2012 averaged $17,757 per student, per year, making the state the fourth most expensive in which to attend college.

Living expenses for college students include room and board, food, clothing and other common household costs. Generally speaking, the cost of living (COL) in Pennsylvania is around 1 percent higher than the national average of 100, although Philadelphia is an estimated 26 percent higher than average. The chart below breaks down COL figures by type for the biggest population areas in the state.

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Pittsburgh -8.5% -25.6% 4.1% -3.0% 5.9% -9.9% -4.2%
Erie -7.9% -8.9% -3.6% -4.0% -1.6% -8.8% -11.6%
Johnstown -7.1% -20.6% -2.3% 1.0% 1.6% -9.6% -1.9%
Indiana County -6.7% -15.8% -0.3% -2.3% -2.3% -8.9% -3.6%
Harrisburg -0.3% -8.5% -2.2% 10.5% 0.2% -6.2% 5.1%
Williamsport-Lycoming Co. 0.7% -3.7% 3.5% 27.7% -8.2% -7.4% -1.1%
York County 2.1% 6.0% -1.6% 2.6% -2.3% -3.2% 2.0%
Lancaster 6.8% 18.4% 1.3% 11.0% -0.3% -4.9% 0.9%
Philadelphia 26.5% 41.3% 24.9% 35.9% 5.8% 8.2% 19.6%

Cost of living can be a very underrated financial element for students. For example, a high school senior from Oklahoma attending Stanford might experience a bit of sticker shock. Another often-overlooked metric is return on investment (ROI). When a student finishes college, he or she wants a degree that signals value and leads to healthy salary potential. Various educational entities assess ROI by subtracting the total cost of attending a college (for four years) from the lifetime salary of that college’s average graduate. This ROI metric can be (and probably should be) a guiding factor in school selection. The Pennsylvania schools that led the way in ROI in 2013 were the following:

  1. Haverford College
  2. Carnegie Mellon University
  3. University of Pennsylvania
  4. Lehigh University
  5. Swarthmore College

Accreditation for Pennsylvania Online Colleges

One factor that all students should take into account when choosing a college, university, or trade school is accreditation. For students receiving financial aid, full accreditation by a government recognized agency is a requirement. Accreditation for a postsecondary institution may come from one of the regional agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The regional agency responsible for accreditation of Pennsylvania colleges and universities is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. In addition to regional accreditation, Pennsylvania schools and institutions can also receive programmatic or specialized accreditation for individual programs, schools or departments. The University of Pennsylvania, for instance, has earned programmatic accreditation for its professional design degrees from the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), the Planning Accreditation Board and the American Society of Landscape Architecture (ASLA).

Best Online Colleges In Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has more than its share of historically important and prestigious colleges and universities. It also has a tremendous number of colleges and universities, both public and private, with robust online degree and certificate programs. Prospective online college students in Pennsylvania will have little trouble finding a distance education course of study to fit their needs. However, students should choose carefully to be sure that their program is of the highest possible quality. The list below has been put together to help students find online colleges ranking above their competitors in academic excellence and value. Here are 2016-2017’s Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania.

Rank University Location ScoreAnnual Tuition# of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 99.79$$$$$46 37% 17:1 86% Yes Yes Yes

Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus is situated in State Park, Pennsylvania. As a public, research school, the university teaches a wide range of undergraduate and graduate classes. The school that started in 1855 has a strong alumni presence. Through programs in specialties like business, communications, agriculture, engineering, nursing and liberal arts, the school encourages research, thoughtful probing and academic excellence. There are more than 20 locations within Pennsylvania where adults can take a Penn State course. The university is nationally known and within close proximity to Philadelphia. Major sports teams at the school regularly receive media coverage.

2 California University of Pennsylvania California, PA 99.28$$$$$15 55% 22:1 53% Yes Yes Yes

Undergraduate students can enroll in any one of 10 online programs that result in bachelor's degrees, as well as two online associate degree programs. There are also a wide range of master's degrees and doctoral programs available completely online. Students not interested in full degrees can pursue 100 percent web-based certificates and certificate programs. There are six different enrollment periods each year: winter, spring, fall and three summer enrollments. Distance programs are coordinated by Global online program coordinators, and online programs have the same objectives, and are taught by the same instructors, as classes delivered on campus.

3 Clarion University of Pennsylvania Clarion, PA 99.26$$$$$25 11% 19:1 50% Yes Yes Yes

Associate, bachelor's and graduate degrees, as well as certificate programs, can all be achieved completely online. More than 4,500 students have completed the new student orientation for distance learners. The school's learning management system is Desire2Learn (D2L), which both instructors and students use for assignments, discussions, coursework, lectures and grades. A 24/7 help desk is available to resolve any issues with D2L. MyClarion Student Tools is a suite of more than a dozen resources available to distance learners, including Career Connections and Campus Labs. Students also have access to an online writing center and online library.

4 Clarks Summit University Clarks Summit, PA 99.18$$$$$6 100% 9:1 54% Yes Yes Yes

There are a number of Christ-centered online degrees available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. There are also several degree-completion programs available for students who are at least 25 years old and who already earned a bachelor's degree or accumulated 60 college credits. There is also a one-year, 30-credit Bible degree certificate. Online seminary programs include both master's and doctoral degrees. Students should be willing to commit roughly 15 hours per week to succeed as distance learners. Like their on-campus counterparts, distance learners have a wide range of student services at their disposal, including online counseling and career services.

5 Keystone College La Plume, PA 98.85$$$$$6 100% 11:1 42% Yes Yes Yes

All classes required to complete distance degree programs are 100 percent online, with no on-campus visits, no required online login times and no physical residency requirements. Incoming students are allowed to transfer in as many as 75 credits toward the 120 that are required to graduate. There are three full degree programs available to distance learners: accounting principles, business administration and industrial-organizational psychology. The Virtual Campus features course chat and IM, as well as a live classroom feature. One of the oldest learning institutions in Northeast Pennsylvania, Keystone offers special programs to military distance learners.

6 University of Valley Forge Phoenixville, PA 98.83$$$$$9 93% 12:1 48% Yes Yes Yes

A wide range of associate, bachelor's and master's degrees are available online. The two bachelor of science degrees, which can be completed completely online, allow students to take just one seven-week course at a time. Students can transfer up to 90 credits from other institutions toward the 120 credits required to graduate. Two of the MA graduate degrees can be finished in just 18 months, with students taking one seven-week course at a time. The private Christian university is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and is an affiliate member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

7 Mansfield University of Pennsylvania Mansfield, PA 98.61$$$$$9 30% 18:1 53% No Yes Yes

Both individual courses and full programs are available for distance learners completely online. Some courses require synchronous discussions, which means students are required to be online at specific times of day for academic interaction. The school offers a video guide created specifically for distance learners to teach them how to best utilize the library for online education. Coursework is delivered through the Desire2Learn learning management system, which students will use to take quizzes, check grades and access discussion boards. A self-assessment test will help students considering distance education whether the online learning format is right for them.

8 Mount Aloysius College Cresson, PA 98.56$$$$$6 99% 12:1 44% No Yes Yes

The online business administration program can be taken at the associate, certificate and bachelor's level. There are also three other certificate programs available to distance learners, as well as an RN to BSN degree-completion program designed for working registered nurses who already earned an associate degree or diploma. Distance learners have access to many of the services the school offers to students who attend traditional classes on campus, including counseling, academic advisement, career services and library services. The school incorporates social, spiritual and cultural development into the curriculum as part of its values-based mission.

9 Temple University Philadelphia, PA 98.38$$$$$3 76% 14:1 69% Yes Yes Yes

Temple University is within walking distance of Center City Philadelphia. Its location puts externships and fellowships at nearby corporations, nonprofits and research facilities within easy reach. Public transportation is available via bus or train through the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). More than 400 degree options are taught at Temple. Academic programs that the school is known for are in the sciences, healthcare, education and liberal arts. These and other learning opportunities in areas like business administration, engineering, regulatory affairs and law help put Temple on the national landscape. Transfer, international, local and out-of-state students are accepted into the school’s rigorous academic programs that take one to five or more years to complete.

10 Lancaster Bible College Lancaster, PA 98.08$$$$$3 96% 15:1 62% Yes Yes Yes

Distance learners at Lancaster Bible College are assigned the same reading and follow the same curriculum delivered by the same professors as traditional students at the physical campus. There are no more than 20 students in any online course, and most distance learners will interact with no more than 12-14 students in most classes. Students use the Agora platform to interact with their student peers, to discuss classes or to post prayer requests. With the exception of scheduled class time, students can work and pursue coursework at their own pace. Distance learners have access to an online writing center, a help desk and online library services.

11 Pennsylvania College of Technology Williamsport, PA 97.86$$$$$15 9% 18:1 45% Yes Yes Yes
12 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania Slippery Rock, PA 97.49$$$$$3 29% 22:1 67% No Yes Yes
13 Lock Haven University Lock Haven, PA 97.49$$$$$3 7% 21:1 47% Yes Yes Yes
14 Peirce College Philadelphia, PA 94.52$$$$$18 83% 12:1 40% Yes No Yes
15 Wilson College Chambersburg, PA 92.63$$$$$4 97% 9:1 41% Yes No Yes
16 Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Edinboro, PA 91.72$$$$$3 25% 19:1 45% Yes No Yes
17 Gratz College Melrose Park, PA 86.00$$$$$3 N/A 5:1 N/A Yes No Yes

Search Accredited Pennsylvania Online Colleges

Anyone considering investing the serious time and money required to pursue a college degree online should first take inventory of the specific conditions that must be met by their college program to ensure academic success. These conditions often cover tuition costs, convenience of class attendance and flexibility in study, access to necessary course materials, as well as subject major and ultimate career goals. The following search tool allows a prospective student to sift through the numerous programs available and narrow results according to those variables which are most important.

Degree Level:
Student Population:
School Type:
see map

Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania for 2015-2016

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCostMORE INFO
1 Clarion University 99.4720:191%

Associate, bachelor's, graduate and doctoral degrees, and a number of certificate and special programs, are available in a convenient online format through Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Topics of study include medical imaging, library science, education and nursing. Clarion University of Pennsylvania uses the Desire2Learn online learning management system. All students are required to complete an online student orientation upon registration. The orientation is delivered in real-time with a facilitator who reviews distance learning, available support services and online assessments. Students also have online access to career services, a writing center, tutoring services and disability support services to support them as they earn their degrees.

2 California University of Pennsylvania 98.7222:189%

California University of Pennsylvania offers many degree and certificate programs that can be completed online. Topics of study range from homeland and international security to wellness and fitness, with the most options at the graduate level, where there are over 25 online programs available. Courses are asynchronous, so students can view materials and complete work at their convenience. The school follows a cohort model, where students progress through the program with the same group of 30-40 peers in each courses. Degrees earned upon graduation will not indicate that courses were taken online, and are identical to those earned by on-campus students.

3 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania 98.3921:189%

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania offers distance students several programs to further their training and career prospects, including an RN to BSN program and multiple graduate level programs. While courses are completed online, some programs require an in-person practicum convenient to the student's location. Hybrid programs, with some on-campus and some online classes, are also available. Courses use the Desire2Learn learning management platform and aim for maximum flexibility for working adults. Class sizes are small and the school encourages frequent interactions between students and professors. The faculty is expert in their respective fields, many with doctoral degrees and extensive professional experience.

4 Cedar Crest College 96.889:1100%

Cedar Crest College provides several online degree and certificate programs through its School of Adult and Graduate Education. The program offers flexibility for working adults and nontraditional students and the same personalized attention that students receive in on-campus courses. Topics of study at the bachelor's level include business administration, health care management and marketing. Education at the master's level includes criminal justice and nursing through an RN to BSN program. Online courses are taught by the same instructors at their campus equivalents. Many classes are offered in accelerated 7-week schedules, which allow students to complete their degrees in as little as two years.

5 Chatham University 96.7610:1100%

Chatham University has online degree, certificate, and non-credit academic programs for students who require a highly flexible schedule or who don't live local to the school's campus. There are also several hybrid programs that combine distance learning with minimal residency requirements. Chatham offers five areas of study for students enrolled in the College for Continuing and Professional Studies program, including nursing, health sciences, business and communication, creative and design arts and education.  All online degree plans are accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.  Students residing in Wisconsin, Alabama, Iowa, Minnesota and Arkansas are not eligible to attend Chatham University.

6 Immaculata University 96.509:1100%

For students who have earned previous credits through community college or other prior schooling, Immaculata University offers several online degree completion programs at the associate and bachelor's levels. Also open to military personnel, the university's programs include subjects like human resources and marketing, as well as an RN to BSN program. Courses are delivered in an accelerated format, allowing students to complete degree faster than in traditional, on-campus classes. The university offers many support services for distance students, including online access to the writing center, math center and career development center, as well as accommodations for students with learning disabilities.

7 Point Park University 96.1313:199%

Point Park University offers multiple online programs designed for non-traditional students. Degree offerings include one associate degree, six bachelor's degrees, seven master's degrees and five professional certificates in areas of study including organizational leadership, public administration, information technology and criminal justice. The distance programs at Point Park use a variety of learning methods, including lectures and reading materials, written assignments, discussion threads and group activities. Courses are delivered through the Blackboard learning management system. The Point Park Career Network offers a central place for online students to research and apply for jobs during their schooling and after graduation.

8 Robert Morris University 96.0215:1100%

Robert Morris University offers several options for working professionals and nontraditional students who wish to earn their degree online. The school has 10 bachelor's programs, with areas of study including writing, psychology and criminal justice. Robert Morris University also has fourteen different distance master's programs, including instructional leadership, nursing education and business. Distance course are supported via an instructional design team that works with faculty to develop effective and engaging online courses. The Online Student Services Team provides direct assistance to students who need help with registration, planning for graduation or accessing educational resources.

9 DeSales University 96.0215:199%

The multiple online degree programs brought to prospective students from DeSales University include those at the bachelor, certification and non-credited levels. Courses are offered in two formats: synchronous, where students and instructors log on at the same time for a virtual class; and asynchronous, where students can log on at any time during the week to complete coursework and review materials. Some courses offer a blend of the two formats. The university accepts transfer credits for many of its degree programs up to 75 transfer credits. Online students may also earn credits through other nontraditional means such as military training, portfolios or College Level Examination Programs (CLEP).

10 Keystone College 95.9511:198%

For non-traditional students who require a flexible schedule, Keystone College has online degree programs in both accounting and business. Courses are 100 percent online, and students may choose to earn a minor online in addition to their chosen major. Classes are delivered in both asynchronous formats (no specific time or day required for participation) and synchronous (where students must sign online at a specified time). Online courses contain all of the same elements as Keystone's on-campus classes, including essays, quizzes, exams, research and group projects. Keystone College offers a self-assessment for students to determine which online program to pursue.

11 Mount Aloysius College 95.7413:1100%

Distance students can earn an associate degree, bachelor's degree, or professional certification through online courses at Mount Aloysius College. Registered nurses can earn a degree through the school's RN to BSN program, and the school also offers a bachelor's degree in business administration. Courses are delivered in an 8-week accelerated format to provide students with a faster path to graduation. Transfer credits are accepted in many programs, so students with an associate degree can earn their bachelor's in as little as two years. Most Mount Aloysius College programs are designed for working adults, with much of the curriculum centered on work experience and practical education.

12 Drexel University 95.7310:194%

Drexel University offers many online programs designed for working professionals and other non-traditional students. Topics of study at the bachelor, master and doctorate levels include criminal justice, psychology and nursing. Students can also earn graduate level certificates to specialize their training for a particular field, which are offered in a range from engineering management to substance use disorders. The programs are based on the same curricula as those held on-campus, but provide the flexibility that many nontraditional students need. Courses center on frequent communication and collaboration between instructors and students, with required participation in discussion boards throughout the semester.

13 Holy Family University 95.7212:1100%

This Roman Catholic university provides a comprehensive, liberal arts education to both undergraduate and graduate level students. The academic department consists of 40 degree programs, which are divided among four distinct schools. They offer a doctorate degree, and a number of certificate programs; accelerated courses are also available. Online degrees are offered for undergraduates to earn their BS in business administration, as well as for graduates to earn their master's degree in business administration. The professionally-focused degree programs allow students to study everything from arts, communications and humanities, to natural sciences, mathematics, and social and behavior sciences.

14 Saint Francis University 95.6214:198%

Saint Francis University has six online programs for distance students, including three master's level programs, two bachelor's programs and the Autism Spectrum Disorders Endorsement program. Some of these are degree completion programs, allowing students who have done prior coursework as undergraduates to apply these credits towards their degree. Military credits may also apply. While instruction and coursework is online, some programs may require in-person fieldwork that can be completed near the student's current location. Classes are delivered through the Blackboard Technology course management system, with instructional tools including group collaboration software, on-demand lecture presentations, discussion forums and streaming videos. Professors are highly accessible through discussion boards, chat rooms and email.

15 La Salle University 95.5712:199%

For students who cannot accommodate a traditional classroom schedule, LaSalle University offers fully-online programs at the undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, graduate and certificate levels. Degree plans include computer information science, nonprofit leadership, cybersecurity and nursing. Some programs offer hybrid options for students who prefer to take some of their classes in person. Instruction and communication with professors and peers is supported through a variety of formats, including discussion boards, blogs, journals, real-time chats and audio or video web conferencing. Courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete work at their convenience; or synchronously, where students log on to a virtual class at a specific day and time.

16 Temple University 95.4314:189%

Temple University has five online programs for working professionals and non-traditional students: two doctoral programs, two master's programs and one bachelor's program. Students can choose to study degree plans including business administration, physical therapy and education. Instruction is delivered through lecture materials and group discussions with the same assignments found in on-campus programs. Many online courses also use real-time web conferencing tools to enhance communication among professors, students, peers and advisors. Most Temple College online courses are three credits. While all courses are online, some programs require brief on-campus meetings several times per year.

17 Eastern University 95.2913:1100%

Several fully-online and some hybrid program options are available from Eastern University at the associate, bachelor, graduate and doctoral levels, covering topics including nursing, organizational leadership, psychology, urban studies and criminal justice. Online instruction is delivered in a variety of ways: through recorded lectures, group breakout discussions, case studies, video segments, and even games. While some courses do not meet at set times, students are still required to complete assignments by certain due dates throughout the semester. Other courses have a set time and date that students must log on. Students use Blackboard or Moodle to complete online assignments.

18 Gwynedd Mercy University 95.0914:1100%

This Catholic university offers a liberal education to students looking to earn baccalaureate and associate degrees. Degrees are offered in more than 50 programs, with accelerated degree programs and online degree programs available for busy, working professionals. The university is focused on providing students with the necessary skills and experience needed to become leaders in their industry of choice. Online degrees are offered for BS in business administration, organizational management or health administration.

19 Saint Joseph’s University 95.0615:197%

Saint Joseph's University offers several undergraduate degrees, master's degrees and graduate certificate programs that can be completed entirely online. Topics of study include liberal studies at the bachelor's level and financial services, food marketing and special education at the master's level. Students who have some credits through previous schooling - or who have earned an associate degree - can complete their degrees through Saint Joseph's University's degree completion program. Saint Joseph's has an online resource center developed specifically for its distance students, offering resources on career outlooks, tips from industry experts and helpful information from faculty.

20 Peirce College 94.3015:187%

Peirce College offers six bachelor's degrees and one master's degree focusing on general studies, business, healthcare, organizational leadership and management, and information technology. Class work can be completed at any time during the week, with no set class times or scheduled work periods. Online students at Peirce have the option to take on-campus courses if local to the area. The college provides direct interaction between students and instructors, primarily via the use of threaded online discussions. Courses have the same professors and curriculum as their on-campus counterparts, and distance students can access many school resources - including the library, bookstore and academic support programs - from the online portal.

21 Summit University 93.3411:1100%

Summit University offers a number of distance learning options for students. In addition to associate, undergraduate and graduate programs in the arts and sciences, the school offers religious degrees including bible certificate, Master of Divinity and Master of Ministry. An online doctoral of ministry can be completed through a combination of online and on-campus classes. Courses run in 8-week sessions, and the school recommends that students plan to dedicate about 18 hours per week on each 3-credit course. Though held through distance means, classes follow a traditional syllabus with due dates for assignments and are not self-paced

22 Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences 92.4512:187%

This private college, formerly known as Lancaster General College of Nursing & Health Sciences, offers associate, bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as a number of certificate programs, to students interested in pursuing a career in the healthcare field. Bachelor's degrees are offered in health sciences, healthcare administration and nursing ' with online programs offered for students to earn credit through the Blackboard Learn learning management system. Online students will benefit from multimedia and interactive technologies that provide a convenient yet collaborative educational experience, and courses are offered asynchronously. Master degree programs are also offered for MSN administration, education and various health sciences.

23 Pennsylvania State University-World Campus 91.1313:191%

Pennsylvania State University's World Campus provides extensive choices for online education, with over 100 graduate and undergraduate degrees, certificates and minors. Topics of study include business, education, nursing and health and family services. Most courses are designed for adult learners and offer the same programs and certifications as on-campus courses. Communication is supported by several platforms, including Skype, Blackboard Collaborate, email and discussion forums. While many assessments can be submitted online, some programs include examinations that students must take with a proctor at a local facility. Each course runs for 12 to 15 weeks on average.

24 Elizabethtown College School of Continuing and Professional Studies 86.827:1 N/A

Held in 5-week sessions, the courses at the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at Elizabethtown College include seven associate, four undergraduate and one graduate online degree programs. Fully-online online and hybrid - a mix of distance and on-campus classes - are available. Bachelor's degree programs offer areas of study including business administration, healthcare and human services. The school also offers an EXCEL degree completion program for students who have earned at least 50 credits and have worked for at least five years. This program uses a combination of experiential learning, independent study and traditional classes to allow adult learners to earn their degrees faster.

Pennsylvania Online Colleges Spotlight: 7 Programs

To help students get a closer look at seven of the top online programs, we asked officials from each school to describe their online programs, tell what makes their online programs valuable to students, and where they see the online programs heading in the next five years.

Online Departments in Pennsylvania

California University of Pennsylvania

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

  • Rooted in history: Cal U Global Online is built on a brick-and-mortar tradition of academic excellence that reaches back over 160 years. As an online student at California University of Pennsylvania, you earn the same diploma as graduates from Cal U’s traditional degree programs.
  • Committed to quality: Cal U Global Online courses are taught by university professors who are experts in their fields and highly skilled at teaching online. These challenging courses have the same objectives, content and learning outcomes as those taught on campus.
  • Dedicated to service: With Cal U Global Online’s “one-stop” support model, our dedicated staff is always ready to answer your questions and respond to your needs.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Cal U Global Online programs can help you achieve your personal and professional goals. More than 35 specialized, career-focused programs lead to a certificate, letter of completion, bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. Many include program-specific relationships with industry-leading organizations that can add value to your degree.

Through our ‘Cal U for Life’ program, Global Online graduates join an alumni network that extends across the country and around the world. Like all our 55,000 alumni, you’ll enjoy lifetime access to career services and other alumni benefits.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

Cal U Global Online is continually assessing the marketplace to keep its programs relevant and career-focused. In the coming years we plan to develop new undergraduate and graduate programs in specialized fields, and we may explore adding doctoral programs.

But some things will never change: Cal U Global Online will continue to strive for excellence, focus on student needs, and deliver quality academic and professional programs at a price you can afford.

Gannon University

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

Gannon University’s goal is to expand access to its quality, values-based, online programs that are targeted to high demand fields and meeting students’ needs. Gannon’s online programs provide affordable, flexible, educational opportunities and comprehensive support services so that students at a distance will be equipped to expand their career options. Engaging, student-centered instruction is a part of all the online programs at Gannon University.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Gannon’s online programs are asynchronous which means students can work through weekly assignments and activities any time of the day or night. This approach is especially convenient for working students. All online courses follow a 16-week instructional design process before the online course is taught for the first time. Course design philosophies are focused on engaging, student-centered instruction that promotes significant and meaningful interactive learning to meet course outcomes. Gannon’s online courses utilize active discussion activities to promote learning communities with the close participation of Gannon’s faculty. A number of services are offered to students including a new online student orientation, online tutoring, online career services, online library services, and technical support.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

Gannon University plans to increase access to students at a distance. A particular focus looking ahead will be adding future online programs in high demand disciplines and potentially offering hybrid programs that include intensive face-to-face campus components.

Gwynedd Mercy University

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

Our adult and graduate online programs have a practical focus that aims to support working professionals in the short-term, while also supporting long-term goals after graduation.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Our online programs are designed to produce graduates with deep theoretical understanding of their field of study, along with the practical skills necessary for putting it to work.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

Our online programs will continue to grow in offerings and adjust to market demands so that we can continue offering degrees of the highest quality.

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

Online learning is an extension of our face-to-face classroom philosophy. There are different instructional strategies needed in the online environment, but we believe online learning should be an engaging, personal and motivating experience – the same experience we strive for in the classroom.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Our online courses are still small course experiences for students. So, there is a lot of personal attention and opportunities for creating a learning community between students and professors. And, in the Learning Technologies Master of Science (LTMS) program online students are directly connected to the face-to-face classroom through our E2C format. Online LTMS students join class from any location, but at the same day and time that students are in the classroom. Online students and classroom students talk, text, answer polls and collaborate with each other during each class.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

Online programs will include more blending of formats as well as an increase in games and simulations as tools for learning, analysis, assessment and discussion.

Immaculata University

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

Immaculata University redesigned all IU Online courses to have the same look, feel, design, and navigation. Using best practices for online course development we developed a template that was incorporated into all IU Online courses. Research indicates that schools who attempt to go online and don’t centralize the administration for online course development and quality control (rigor) don’t succeed. So our approach is to enrich faculty to student, student to faculty, student to content, and student-to-student interaction incorporating multimedia strategies and using best practices for the online facilitation of online courses.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

We have an online orientation that has the same look, feel, design and navigation as an IU Online course. It gives the students a nonthreatening introduction to the world of online without having the fear of “can I do this?” There are five modules titled: 1. All About Moodle (practice drop box assignment), 2. Principles of Online Learning (practice discussion and a good video on andragogy) 3. IU Student Services (Library access to research, info about OWL Writing and Math Centers, and advising) 4. Policy and Procedure Guide, and 5. Survey and Reflections.

Immaculata University developed an Online Student Readiness Assessment tool to help prospective students assess if they would be a good fit for a fully online degree program. The assessment tool is also used for students who primarily take courses in the classroom but want to try an online course. All the IU Online degree programs are Bachelor of Sciences and can be earned fully online.

Immaculata University is a member of the Returning to Learning Partnership with the City of Philadelphia and we offer fulltime city employees a 25% discount. The courses are also delivered in a seven-week format Fall Term I & II, Spring Term I & II, and Summer I & II. Students can accelerate through the program depending on how many courses they take each term. Students have a real option to accelerate their online degree if they choose to do so!

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

Immaculata University recently launched two new degree programs: Emergency Planning and Management (Fall of 2012) and our award winning RN to BSN program is now fully online (Fall of 2013). The program was intentionally not grown until we knew that we could deliver a quality product that replicates the rigor in the classroom for which Immaculate is known! The quality control of the courses, the professional development of online faculty, the use of multimedia and instructional technology software, and to continually assess how satisfied your online students are all the keys for success in scaling enrollments upwards. Over the next five years Immaculata will continue to have steady and controlled enrollment growth, and will continue to develop new degree programs to meet the needs of the job market.

Millersville University of Pennsylvania

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

Every online course at Millersville University is taught by a distinguished Millersville instructor and reflects our tradition of a broad-based and responsive education curriculum. Requirements for successful completion of any online course are similar to other college courses that might be taken.

The Millersville University's online "campus" is very much like a traditional university environment. There is a library, a bookstore and all the administrative offices of the University - admissions, advising, registration, bursar, financial aid, etc. - are present online. Instructors are available for private consultation by telephone during regular office hours (posted on line) as well as by e-mail. Our approach is to provide a comprehensive learning environment.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Participating in an online course is intellectually challenging and personally rewarding. Each time students attend class (at their convenience, by Internet connection through their home or office computer) they will find a discussion in progress. The instructor provides lectures and offers resources, asks and answers questions, gives assignments, assesses student progress and gives feedback, in class and privately, in the electronic classroom. Fellow students discuss topics by posting comments, questions and observations. Student responses and contributions become part of the ongoing interaction. Each session is recorded and archived. Distance learning at Millersville University is a proud part of an academic institution that is committed to providing learning opportunities for those who--by choice or by circumstance -- are looking for alternate ways to fulfill their academic and professional development goals.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

Through its distance learning and off-campus programs, Millersville University offers degrees, certificates and individual courses to its students - in southeastern Pennsylvania, across the Commonwealth, and around the world. Millersville University continually strives to prepare students for success in the 21st century, a time when lifelong learning is essential and coping with change is a necessity. The future has no boundaries - so why should education? We are committed to expanding and refining our distance-learning program to meet the needs of our students--now and in the future.

Robert Morris University

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

RMU offers students the opportunity to enroll in online programs that offer the same high level of quality as our on ground programs. In addition, we are a student centered university that believes in supporting our students throughout every step of their education. We offer a highly supportive environment with student services counselors available seven days per week to all online students. We have a teacher-scholar model of education--our faculty members are interested in and focused on being scholars but with research that is able to be applied to teaching professional skills to our students.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

We are not newcomers to educating the adult learner. We have been doing this since 1921 and have been providing online options since 1998. We understand what the adult learner needs and wants. We also provide them with a professional skills based approach--skills that will help them to get them ready for a career, a career enhancement, or a career change.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

We will continue to expand the number of programs offered online--ones that students want and need. We will continue to enhance and widen our supportive services. We will also continue to have faculty members and our instructional designers utilize best practices in online teaching and design.

Great Resources for Online Students in Pennsylvania

There is a wealth of resources available via the internet for college students and others that make the experience of online learning easier and program success more likely. The number and variety of these tools is almost endless and include knowledge databases, library books and reference materials, language and composition tutorials and guides, science and mathematics calculation programs, time and money management applications, and even mind mapping software and programs to spur creativity. The links below provide students with a start, including several helpful site specific to education in Pennsylvania.

Major Pennsylvania Educational Resources: