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

Updated on: 12/06/17

With so many online degree options in Virginia, the task of picking the best college can be overwhelming. This guide will walk you through the process and offer valuable information on affordability, accreditation, credit transfer options and also provides a list of the top online colleges in Virginia. Read on to learn everything you need to know to select the online college that’s best for you.

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Overview of Online Colleges in Virginia

Online learning opportunities in Virginia have grown tremendously in recent years. Together, public and private colleges across the state offer online students a large selection of degree and course options through the Electronic Campus of Virginia. The Virginia Community College System (VCCS), a network of 24 community colleges throughout the state, gives students even more online programs and courses. In addition, students can pay in-state tuition at several southeast states through the Southern Regional Education Board. Some notable Virginia colleges with a variety of online degree programs include Old Dominion University, University of Virginia , Norfolk State University and Liberty University . Students can find more Virginia colleges by using online databases and search tools such as the one provided by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Featured Online Colleges

Grand Canyon University

Founded in 1949, Grand Canyon University is a private, Christian university that offers more than 160 academic programs and more than 100 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral online degrees.

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Southern New Hampshire University

You have goals. Southern New Hampshire University can help you get there.

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Kaplan University

Helping you achieve your goals, from enrollment through graduation and beyond.

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In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition in Virginia

According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia , to qualify for in-state tuition, Virginia college students must be residents of Virginia for at least one year, with proven intent to remain a resident indefinitely rather than just for educational purposes. Virginia residents can also attend college in other southern states at in-state tuition rates through the Academic Common Market . Individual colleges will determine if online students are eligible for in-state tuition, and private colleges will typically charge the same tuition rate for both residents and non-residents. The cost difference is significant:

In-state tuition $11,669 (public, 4-year)

Out-of-state tuition $32, 501 (public, 4-year)

Source: National Center for Education Statistics (2015-2016)

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As an online student, will I need to pay in-state or out-of-state tuition?

Virginia residents enrolled in an online program at a public Virginia college or university should be eligible to pay in-state tuition. Such students can also qualify for in-state tuition in the southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia through the Academic Common Market program. Online students who do not reside in Virginia – or any of the Academic Common Market states – but plan to enroll in a Virginia college may have to pay a higher tuition rate, depending on the college. For example, Old Dominion University charges non-resident, online students a slightly higher tuition rate than online students residing on Virginia. But that rate is still significantly less than on-campus, non-resident students. For those planning to attend an online private college or university in Virginia, all students, regardless of residency, typically pay the same tuition rate as on-campus students.

Quick summary on tuition:
  • 1.In-state and out-of-state tuition rates for students attending an online Virginia college are determined by the individual school, but typically Virginia residents and residents from participating Academic Common Market states pay lower, in-state tuition. Non-residents may be charged out-of-state tuition, whether they are online students or not.

  • 2.Several factors will determine in-state tuition eligibility, including the type of college. Private colleges and universities often charge a flat rate for both residents and non-residents, while public colleges usually have different rates. Contact the colleges you are interested in directly to find out the exact cost, including additional fees that may be required for online programs.

How can I qualify for financial aid?

The best way to get started is to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Even if you do not plan to take out federal student loans, many grant and scholarships are awarded based on FAFSA-demonstrated financial need. FAFSA can be completed online, along with most grants and scholarships. Check with your college’s financial aid department or research online to find scholarships and grants you are qualified for, and be aware of deadlines. State sponsored financial aid is also an option, and details found on the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

Student loans are typically need-based, but grants and scholarships can be need-based, merit-based or both. Specific criteria must be met to qualify for and maintain most types of financial aid, such as residency, financial need, course load and academic progress. Many colleges will have their own criteria based on satisfactory academic progress as outlined by the Department of Education. Choosing an accredited college is also important because all federal financial aid is only given to those attending an accredited college.

To maintain financial aid, students must typically meet the following benchmarks:

  • GPA

    Almost all forms of financial aid will require students to maintain a specific GPA. For federal loans and some state programs, a 2.0 GPA is required, while some scholarships may have a higher GPA requirement.

  • Time commitments

    This varies based on the institution but typically ranges from half to full-time enrollment. For federal loans, students must be enrolled at least half-time.

  • Max credit loads

    Financial aid recipients will usually have to carry a specific amount of credits every semester, with a cap on how many can be earned in total to complete their degree.

  • Residency

    U.S. citizenship may be a requirement, and most states have residency requirements that range from six months to a year.

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Paying for College: Scholarships & Grants

Scholarships are the best way to pay for college because they don’t need to be paid back and can greatly reduce or eliminate debt after graduation. But applying for them can sometimes be time-consuming. Online research can lead you to a variety of scholarships at the federal or state level, or from private or non-profit organizations across the country. Some have very basic requirements, while some focus on specific members of the community, such as minorities, students with disabilities and veterans.

What scholarships and grants can I apply for?

A completed FAFSA will determine if you qualify for a Pell Grant , which is a federal grant you don’t need to pay back. In Virginia, there are also several state-awarded scholarships worth looking in to. Several scholarships and grants are offered through individual colleges, and may be awarded to students in a certain degree program, or to the general student population. Scholarships and grants are also given by private companies and non-profit organizations, either at the local or national level. Some scholarships and grants are set up to help students within a specific group, such as minorities, veterans, women or those studying in a particular field such as STEM. The list of scholarships offered by Virginia State University is a good example of the types of scholarships you may find through individual institutions.

How do I apply?

The best plan is to give yourself plenty of time to research available scholarships, and apply for as many as you possibly can. Search for Virginia scholarships using online scholarship search tools and databases. Visit the colleges’ websites that you are interested in attending to see what’s available. Complete your FAFSA to determine financial need, plus you can check it off your list, as many scholarships and grants will likely ask for it. Other items you may need to submit to complete your application are proof of residency, official high school and/or college transcripts, financial information, references/letters of recommendation and an essay.

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Best Online Colleges in Virginia: 2018

With so many choices of online colleges to choose from nowadays, how can you possibly decide? If finding the best accredited online colleges in Virginia seems like a daunting task, check out the following list of best affordable online colleges in Virginia , all of which are accredited. We collected and analyzed data from several Virginia colleges to determine which ones offered the best opportunities. Compare individual schools and start narrowing down your options to find the college that best fits your needs.

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Methodology
  • 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

  • Student-teacher ratio

  • 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

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 University of Virginia-Main Campus Charlottesville, VA 100.00 $10,484 16 27% 15:1 93% no yes yes
2 Hampton University Hampton, VA 99.67 $19,548 22 60% 9:1 68% yes yes yes
3 Virginia University of Lynchburg Lynchburg, VA 99.62 $7,200 5 100% 10:1 45% yes yes yes
4 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA 98.85 $20,300 25 82% 18:1 50% yes yes yes
5 Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA 97.98 $5,795 30 47% 19:1 51% yes yes yes
6 Bluefield College Bluefield, VA 97.86 $22,840 7 100% 16:1 45% no yes yes
7 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA 97.43 $15,900 8 94% 28:1 47% yes yes yes
8 George Mason University Fairfax, VA 96.64 $7,562 12 23% 16:1 67% yes yes yes
9 Virginia Baptist College Fredericksburg, VA 96.11 $4,800 4 50% 5:1 33% yes yes yes
10 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA 95.83 $10,306 13 41% 17:1 57% no yes yes
11 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, VA 95.77 $10,088 7 38% 14:1 83% no yes yes
12 James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA 95.52 $5,406 6 18% 16:1 81% yes yes yes
13 Jefferson College of Health Sciences Roanoke, VA 94.95 $23,080 6 100% 8:1 29% yes no yes
14 Radford University Radford, VA 94.66 $6,386 3 21% 17:1 59% no yes yes
15 Averett University Danville, VA 90.84 $10,200 15 N/A 7:1 N/A yes no yes
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2-Year Best College Rankings

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Southwest Virginia Community College Richlands, VA 100.00 $3,060 15 54% 22:1 N/A yes yes yes
2 Mountain Empire Community College Big Stone Gap, VA 96.31 $3,060 16 47% 26:1 N/A yes no yes
3 Thomas Nelson Community College Hampton, VA 95.96 $3,855 18 4% 22:1 N/A yes yes yes
4 Piedmont Virginia Community College Charlottesville, VA 95.38 $3,855 6 5% 20:1 N/A yes yes yes
5 Tidewater Community College Norfolk, VA 95.03 $3,084 11 4% 22:1 N/A yes yes yes
6 New River Community College Dublin, VA 94.89 $3,060 12 12% 29:1 N/A yes yes yes
7 Southside Virginia Community College Alberta, VA 94.76 $3,825 6 16% 23:1 N/A yes yes yes
8 Northern Virginia Community College Annandale, VA 94.63 $4,490 14 12% 25:1 N/A yes yes yes
9 J Sargeant Reynolds Community College Richmond, VA 94.54 $3,918 6 3% 19:1 N/A no yes yes
10 Lord Fairfax Community College Middletown, VA 94.26 $3,825 4 11% 24:1 N/A yes yes yes
11 Wytheville Community College Wytheville, VA 94.23 $3,825 3 44% 23:1 N/A no no yes
12 John Tyler Community College Chester, VA 92.96 $4,080 10 3% 23:1 N/A yes no yes
13 Rappahannock Community College Glenns, VA 92.28 $3,060 6 24% 25:1 N/A yes no yes

Finding the Right Online College

Nowadays students typically need flexibility which makes attending an on-campus program difficult. Examples of the types of students who pursue online degrees are those working full-time, students in a location that doesn’t have the higher education options they need, those in the military or those that have family obligations that prevent them from attending rigid class schedules. We have found that these students often have the same questions, and you may, too. Below are the top questions regarding choosing an online college to help you make the right decision.

Do Virginia colleges accept transfer credits and work/life experience?

The ability to transfer credits and use work/life experience for credits is ultimately up to the individual school but several online colleges in Virginia do allow students to transfer credits from accredited institutions, and may even give college credit for life/work experience, as long as specific criteria is met. Virginia’s community colleges have transfer agreements with over 30 public and private four-year institutions, and several colleges will accept credits earned at institutions outside of Virginia. You can research online and contact the schools you are interested in to explore your options. Examples of Virginia schools with credit transfer and work/life transfer options include George Mason University , Liberty University and James Madison University .

I live in Virginia. Do I need to go to an online college in Virginia?

As a Virginia resident, you do not need to choose an online college in Virginia. But if affordability is an important factor, choosing a college in Virginia – or in one of the Academic Common Market states – may allow you to save money by making you eligible for in-state tuition.

What should I look for when picking an online college?

Weighing important criteria is the best way to do a comparison of Virginia colleges. Allow yourself plenty of time to research, take advantage of various online tools and databases and look at individual college websites for more detailed information.

Another factor to consider with online degree programs is the type of program you are interested in, and whether the program is offered fully online, or if campus visits are required. Some programs may only be offered in a hybrid format, which means some on-campus attendance is required. Degrees in some fields will require a specific amount of clinical or field time, such as nursing and teaching. If travel is an issue for you, there are several programs in Virginia and elsewhere that offer degree programs completely online.