By 2020, analysts project that 64% of in-state jobs will require postsecondary education in Pennsylvania, and 22% of jobs will require at least a bachelor's degree. These growing demands led state institutions to establish initiatives to educate more students in Pennsylvania and attract more educated professionals from around the world. Between 2012 and 2016, nearly 30% of Pennsylvanians over the age of 25 secured a bachelor's degree or higher.
To help you choose an online program that is right for you, we've created a list of online colleges in Pennsylvania ranked by affordability and quality, and provided information on start dates, financial aid, and transfer credits.
Below is a list of the best accredited online colleges in Pennsylvania. Each school is ranked based on metrics including average tuition price, graduation rates, availability of student services, and breadth of online programs. These metrics highlight the most affordable online colleges in Pennsylvania with the highest quality programs, services, and faculty. Read on to discover the right program for you.
Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution
At least 3 online associate degrees or certificate programs (2-year schools)
At least 3 online bachelor’s or master’s degrees (4-year schools)
Annual in-state tuition below $5,000 (2-year schools)
Annual in-state tuition below $25,000 (4-year schools)
Colleges receive a total score based on performance in the following categories:
Average in-state net price for first-time/full-time undergraduates
Count and breadth of online programs available
6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)
% of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college
Average $ of financial aid students receive directly from the college
Availability of academic/career counseling services
Availability of job placement services for students and graduates
3-year loan default rate
AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*
*PBV is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or 'bang for your buck' – of an online degree.
Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information.
Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017
|number||University||Score||Location||Annual Tuition||# of Online Programs||Financial Aid %||Student-Teacher Ratio||Grad Rate||Credit for Experience||Placement Services||Counseling Services||University Information|
|1.||Pennsylvania Highlands Community College||100.00||Johnstown, PA||$4,680||5||5%||20:1||N/A||yes||no||yes|
To help meet the economic demands of educated professionals and the educational demand for accessible programs, the online college landscape in Pennsylvania is expanding and improving. While Pennsylvania's in-state tuition exceeds the national average, increased access to online degrees in Pennsylvania bodes well for students in the state, particularly those working full-time. Furthermore, initiatives to improve educational pathways for economically disadvantaged students, like single parents and underserved populations, should improve opportunities for those who need them most.
Number of programs offered completely online in Pennsylvania 307
Undergraduate students enrolled exclusively online in Pennsylvania30,045
Graduate students enrolled exclusively online in Pennsylvania 31,490
Total international students enrolled exclusively online in Pennsylvania 822
Many institutions in Pennsylvania offer reduced tuition rates for in-state residents. Average in-state tuition of $13,416 is substantially less than the average out-of-state four-year tuition of $25,367. Two-year institutions in Pennsylvania charge an average tuition of $4,791 for in-state applicants and $11,801 for out-of-state applicants.
In Pennsylvania, many institutions offer the same tuition rates for all students, regardless of location. The same tuition enables students from all over the world to attend online college programs in Pennsylvania without the need to relocate or pay substantially higher fees. Moreover, some online universities in Pennsylvania honor reciprocity agreements with neighboring states, giving students access to reduced or in-state tuition prices.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
Compared to the national average for four-year tuition fees, Pennsylvania institutions charge approximately 54% higher tuition fees for in-state students. The state's out-of-state tuition fees, however, are only 5% more than the national average.
The differences in cost per credit between two-year colleges, public universities, and private universities can prove substantial. Below you'll find examples of tuition costs students should expect to find in Pennsylvania from different higher learning institutions.
When searching for online colleges in Pennsylvania, out-of-state students should consider the number of students studying exclusively online in the state. Students should also explore any reciprocity agreements their chosen schools offer. Out-of-state students must verify that the school of their choice does not hold any state restrictions or unmanageable residency requirements.
While some online schools in Pennsylvania may offer tuition breaks for students from specific states, the state itself does not offer a reciprocity agreement for residents of other states. Since Pennsylvania represents one of the few states not connected to a regional interstate compact, students wishing to receive in-state tuition rates while studying on-campus in Pennsylvania must prove residency.
Pennsylvania may not offer out-of-state tuition discounts for on-campus students, but out-of-state students attending an online school in Pennsylvania can benefit from an online reciprocity agreement. Established by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, NC-SARA enhances the quality of online instruction and access to online programs. It also reduces costs associated with distance learning. Additionally, many Pennsylvania institutions offer reduced tuition rates for out-of-state online students because of the lower overhead and material costs associated with distance learning.
Tuition rates are ultimately program- and institution-based. Ask someone from a prospective program about what rates apply to you specifically as a potential member of a specific program.
Still have questions about how online learning works in Pennsylvania? Check out the frequently asked questions below to find answers.
Online credits typically cost the same or less than on-campus credits for Pennsylvania residents. Online programs can cost less than on-campus programs since they require fewer physical materials; however, the cost of online credits varies depending on the school and the program. In Pennsylvania, schools that charge more often provide additional student services, greater program choices, and superior faculties. Residency will impact costs as well.
For out-of-state students, online credits often cost less than on-campus credits because many online universities in Pennsylvania charge a single flat rate, regardless of residency. While the average tuition in Pennsylvania costs more than the average tuition across the country, online students can still find affordable high-quality options in Pennsylvania that meet their budgets.
Many Pennsylvania schools offer accommodating transfer credit policies. Some Pennsylvania schools permit students to transfer in a maximum of 90 credits. These Pennsylvania schools, like Chatham University, typically only accept transfer credits from an accredited university that hold a grade of "C" or better.
While almost all Pennsylvania schools welcome transfer students, most schools require transfer students complete a specific number of credits at the graduating institution. Pennsylvania State University, for example, requires students to complete 36 of their last 60 credits at the school. This requirement ensures graduates receive a Penn State education. Similarly, some schools, like the University of Pennsylvania, require students to complete at least half of the credits in their major at the institution. Some schools also offer transfer credits for work experience, military experience, or College Level Examination Programs.
Many online colleges in Pennsylvania accept students with a GED. Typically, schools require students to send in GED transcripts and high school transcripts for all completed classes. The school then reviews the applicant's file and decides if the student meets the admission requirements. Schools may require additional documentation, like recommendation letters.
At Penn State, the admissions office accepts standard applicants and adult learners with GEDs, permitted the student sends all high school transcripts as well. Students who do not meet traditional application requirements may receive acceptance as provisional students if they meet the institution's provisional requirements. Some schools offer academic forgiveness for students with GEDs who provide acceptable reasoning for poor prior academic performance and/or conditional admissions to students who do not possess program prerequisites.
Start dates for online programs in Pennsylvania depend on the program and school. Some online colleges in Pennsylvania offer monthly or near-monthly start dates, which allow students to start their education without waiting for a new semester. However, some online schools in Pennsylvania structure online programs like on-campus programs, meaning courses start every fall, winter, and summer. Typically, though, online colleges in Pennsylvania provide students with more start dates than on-campus programs.
Since many online programs in Pennsylvania feature an asynchronous format, program calendars require less structure, which allows students to take courses at different times and in different orders. These programs feature eight-week sessions with start dates every 2-3 months. Some schools provide inter sessions as well, courses that start in the middle of fall or winter. Synchronous online programs feature less-frequent start dates because of schedule demands on faculty and students.
In Pennsylvania, all online colleges accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and approved by the state Department of Education accept the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To check the status of a program, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation provides a search directory for institutions, programs, and accreditors. Even private licensed schools allow FAFSA, granted MSCHE accredited the institution and the Department of Education licensed it.
In addition to FAFSA, accredited and approved Pennsylvania schools also provide access to the State Higher Education Grant Program. For eligibility, students must enroll in, at minimum, a two-year, 60-credit program with at least 1800 hours of instruction. While still eligible, students enrolled in distance education programs with more than 50% online instruction may receive reduced grant allowances. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency requires students to complete the state grant application and the FAFSA application to determine eligibility for the state grant.
Students will find most free online courses, including those from Pennsylvania colleges, in the form of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Many institutions across the country and the world contribute MOOCs to different online providers and hosts. These courses, in addition to providing cost-effective education for Pennsylvania students, also provide greater access to Pennsylvania programs for students from around the world.
Coursera and edX, two of the most common MOOC hosts, offer courses from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Pennsylvania. In fact, PennX, the latter school's MOOC site through edX, provides courses and certificates to students. While MOOCs may not provide credit toward a degree, students can use them as refreshers and supplemental learning. With minimal or no costs associated with the courses, students can take as many as their schedules allow.
While students can find many online programs and courses on different Pennsylvania college websites, Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education provides one of the best resources available to students for searching through the available online programs. The search directory allows users to search through all online programs offered by the 14 member universities of the state system.
With over 300 degrees and certificates available, the directory is a good place to start your search. The state system also provides resources for locating financial aid, finding the right program, and learning about faculties.
Each student should fill out the FAFSA as their first step in applying for financial aid. Pell Grants provide a substantial portion of the higher learning population with funding. Students who are ineligible for federal funding should explore state-specific scholarships. The following scholarships are specific to those attending Pennsylvania schools.
TFEC provides scholarships to students residing in various Pennsylvania counties. The organization offers more than 120 scholarships to Pennsylvania residents pursuing academic interests. Many of the scholarships require community involvement and residency in a specific Pennsylvania county.
Scholarship Amount: VariesView Details
Funded by the Philadelphia Education Fund, this scholarship program is awarded to high school students from Philadelphia with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Applicants must plan to pursue a bachelor's degree and apply to an accredited college in specific Pennsylvania counties.
Scholarship Amount: $1,000 per yearView Details
Awarded to students pursuing postsecondary degrees in Pennsylvania, the Maguire Foundation and Pennsylvania Society scholarship is presented to students demonstrating financial need, community leadership, and academic performance. Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA and take a minimum of nine credits in government, American history, and/or political science.
Scholarship Amount: $8,000View Details
The Horatio Alger State Scholarship awards future leaders across the country from each of the fifty states. Students applying for the Pennsylvania award must reside in Pennsylvania, demonstrate financial aid, and plan to enter college the same year they graduate high school. Applicants must maintain a 2.0 GPA, display community leadership and involvement, and show the ability to overcome adversity.
Scholarship Amount: Up to $10,000View Details
The state grant program offers aid to eligible Pennsylvania students to help them fund their education. Funded primarily by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency provides funding to students based on financial need.
Scholarship Amount: VariesView Details