According to U.S. News & World Report, Washington state ranks in the top ten for states with the most educated population. In addition, Washington’s educational attainment projections reveal that over 70% of Washington jobs require postsecondary education by 2020. Due to the state’s highly educated workforce, Washington professionals benefit from completing undergraduate and graduate degrees. Earning an online degree can mean increased salary potential and career options. Below is a ranking of the best and most affordable online colleges in Washington and resources on transfer credits, financial aid, and scholarship opportunities.
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Washington’s Top Affordable Online Colleges
Washington’s Top Affordable Online Colleges
The best online colleges in Washington offer a quality education at affordable prices. Our ranking of the top online colleges in Washington considers factors such as tuition costs, student-to-teacher ratios, and graduation rates. Availability of financial support, career counseling services, and job placement support also affect rankings. These factors contribute to the program’s overall accessibility and value.
- 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
Washington State University
Washington State University offers a wide range of online programs fit for students looking for any level of higher education. One of the largest online schools in Washington, virtual offerings at WSU include popular options like psychology, economics, criminal justice, hospitality business management, and multiple different focuses for business administration. While many students study toward a bachelor’s degree, both master’s and degree certificates for undergraduate and graduate levels are available through the online program. WSU Global Campus follows Washington State University’s schedule, so online students will study in a traditional semester format, but are also able to take accelerated courses in the winter.
Heritage University, located Toppenish, WA, has multiple high-quality online degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Students looking to study English, the humanities or education at an online school in Washington should consider Heritage University due to the school’s focus on education – both while in school and as a professional post-grad. One of the most popular degree options available through Heritage University’s online portal is the ProTeach Portfolio Support program. This program is designed to help students become teachers in the state of Washington by giving the requirements needed for the second-level certification. All online degree programs are available 24/7, allowing for students to study at their own pace, and each degree is taught with the same quality as their on-campus counterparts.
Central Washington University
Central Washington University has a special offer for out-of-state, online students: they can qualify to pay that same as their in-state peers. CWU is one of the only online schools in Washington that offers a waiver to most out-of-state students, reducing the cost of an online education to match that of in-state. On top of that, their online program has plenty of different degree options available to students. There are 12 online bachelor’s degree programs offered including sociology, English and business administration, as well as 10 master’s degree programs. Of the online programs, the bachelor’s in paramedicine and the master’s programs related to health are hybrid in nature, allowing for students to complete in-person requirements at the campus in Ellensburg, while completing other studies online.
University of Washington-Seattle Campus
The University of Washington offers hundreds of different majors through their multiple colleges and schools, and many of its programs are among the most respected across the nation. From certificates to bachelor’s completion programs to individual online courses, students looking for flexible online programs in Washington will likely find something in UW’s catalog to fit their needs. However, it’s UW’s online master’s programs that really set them apart. There are nearly a dozen degree options, offered both entirely online and in hybrid formats for students requiring in-person labs. Whether it’s aerospace engineering to land a job a nearby Boeing, or public health to work at one of Seattle’s world-renown hospitals, these degrees can set students on the right path for success in their chosen industries.
Faith Evangelical College & Seminary
Faith International University in Tacoma, Washington, includes a faith-based outlook on all of its online program offerings. For example, one student at FIU may be studying toward a bachelor’s degree in business specializing in life coaching, while another may be studying toward a master’s degree in theological studies. The structures of the courses are meant not only to educate students, but to strengthen their Christian values and help mold them as future leaders of their communities and workplaces. FIU also offers international divisions for Chinese and Korean natives, making them one of the only online schools in Washington with foreign-native options. Online courses at FIU take advantage of the newest technology, with some of the courses utilizing pre-recorded lectures on DVD so students can follow along at their own pace and leisure. While these courses and degree programs are completely entirely online, students will still communicate frequently with their instructor and other students throughout their studies.
City University of Seattle
The City University of Seattle teaches students practical knowledge for the workplace, enabling them to work on furthering their careers. Onsite and online education are just two of the delivery modes offered by City U, but they are easily the most popular. Degree programs may be offered entirely online, entirely onsite, or as a hybrid of the two. This “mixed mode" study style is applied to some of their degree programs, such as their master of arts in counseling. However, plenty of degree options, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, are offered entirely online, giving students the flexibility to study at their own pace. Onsite students will likely get to enjoy living in Seattle, Washington, but the school also has programs in over 20 other locations, including Canada, China and Mexico. Transfer students can breathe easy: City U accepts up to 135 transfer credits, a special transfer scholarship, and offers open enrollment.
2-Year Best College Ranking
Why Choose Washington for Online Higher Education?
Washington state colleges and universities currently have over 25,000 undergraduates completing all courses online. With over a hundred programs offered fully online, Washington colleges provide flexible and accessible options for growing groups, such as single parents and full-time workers. Members of these groups benefit from the ability to earn an online degree in Washington, arranging coursework around work or family obligations.
- Number of programs offered Completely online in Washington 112
- Undergraduate students enrolled exclusively online in Washington 25,429
- Graduate students enrolled exclusively online in Washington 4,252
- Total international students enrolled exclusively online in Washington 469
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Cost of Attending an Online College in Washington
Students attending an online program in Washington may pay different tuition rates depending on their residency status. Washington state residents receive a small tuition discount at public institutions, while private schools charge a flat rate. To receive the in-state tuition rate, students must prove they have lived in the state for at least 12 consecutive months, sever legal ties with their former location of residency, and demonstrate financial independence for at least one year. Students from neighboring states, such as Oregon or Idaho, may qualify for tuition reductions through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), which is discussed in more detail below.
$7,782 – public, four-year institution $3,771 – public, two-year institution
$28,849 – public, four-year institution$6,565 – public, two-year institution
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
Washington residents pay slightly less than the national average for in-state tuition at four-year public universities. Two-year institutions and out-of-state residents at four-year public schools pay slightly above the national average.
Student earning online degrees in Washington may pay different tuition rates than students enrolled in an on-campus program. Some schools offer a discount for online students enrolling from out of state, but others do not.
LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW YOUR FAFSA WORKS IN WASHINGTON
Considering a Washington School as an Out-of-State Student
The majority of students enrolled in online colleges in Washington live in the state; however, out-of-state students can also benefit from the exceptional education available from Washington colleges and universities. Reciprocity agreements with neighboring states, which offer tuition discounts, and from the state’s online graduate programs also aid out-of-state students. Non-residents considering an online program in Washington should also consider any licensing requirements that may apply to their profession, which varies by state.
Out-of-state undergraduate students studying exclusively online in Washington
Out-of-state graduate students studying exclusively online in Washington
Residents of states near Washington qualify for tuition discounts through the Western Undergraduate Exchange. On average, students who meet the qualifications save $9,000 a year. In the 2017/2018 academic year, over 40,000 students used the WUE, saving over $365 million in out-of-state tuition. Over 160 colleges and universities participate in the exchange, including two-year colleges. The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), which administers WUE, also offers a discounted tuition program for graduate students.
The WUE applies to 16 states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming in addition to Washington. Residents of the U.S. pacific territories Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands also qualify.
State Authorizations for Online Learning
Washington participates in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA). A voluntary agreement between states, SARA sets standards for online education across state lines. Membership grants institutions approval to educate students living in other states, easing the process of transferring. Accredited online colleges in Washington participate in SARA, which authorizes that institution to offer degrees through distance education programs to out-of-state students.
Check with an admissions or financial officer.
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.
One-Stop College Research Resources for Washington’s Online Schools
Prospective students considering online schools in Washington may wonder about transfer credits, applying with a GED, and financial aid options. The following section answers some frequently asked questions.
Do online credits cost more or less in Washington?
The cost of online credits varies depending on the institution. Public colleges and universities often charge less than private schools. Washington residents may also save on the cost of online credits at certain universities. Washington State University (WSU) and its online Global Campus, for example, charges part-time Washington resident students $507 per credit or $565 per credit for non residents.
Students attending online colleges in Washington may save on tuition over students attending in person. For example, at WSU full-time online Washington resident students pay $10,135 a year in tuition, while the same Washington residents attending courses on campus pay $10,268 per year.
Non residents save a significant amount by attending online. Full-time online WSU students from out of state pay $11,329 per year in tuition, while non residents enrolled full time in an on-campus program spend $24,504 per year.
Which Washington schools accept the most transfer credits?
Each online school in Washington sets its own guidelines for accepting transfer credits. At Central Washington University, for example, students can transfer up to 135 quarter credits, or the equivalent of 90 semester credits, toward a bachelor’s degree. City University of Seattle also accepts 135 quarter credits toward an undergraduate degree. When applying to an online college in Washington with transfer credits, students must submit their transcript for review to determine how many credits apply toward their degree.
Not all credits automatically transfer. Many schools only accept credits earned at an accredited college or university, while some place limits on how many upper division credits apply toward a degree. Schools must also determine the course equivalency at their institution; some courses may not count if they have no equivalent class at the college.
Some institutions also grant credits for prior learning assessment, which can include military training, workplace experience, professional certifications, and examinations such as the Advanced Placement tests.
Will any online colleges in Washington accept a GED?
Most online colleges in Washington accept applicants who hold a GED instead of a high school transcript. Students who pass a GED exam earn the equivalency of a high school diploma, meeting the admission requirements for most colleges and universities. City U of Seattle, for example, accepts students with a GED, as does WSU. In most cases, students ask the testing agency which administered the GED to send proof of their passing score to the university during the admissions process.
Some students do not need to provide proof of a GED or high school transcript, including those with over one year of college credits. Depending on the program’s admission guidelines, these students may simply need to provide college transcripts rather than proof of high school graduation. Homeschooled students can also apply to online colleges in Washington by submitting proof of their course of study in the form of a curriculum or academic resume.
How many academic terms per year do online colleges in Washington offer?
Some online colleges offer classes that start every few weeks or month, with multiple start dates throughout the year. Most of Washington’s public colleges and universities that offer online classes use the institution’s regular academic schedule, meaning students can start during any semester or quarter. WSU’s Global Campus uses the semester schedule, for example, and online students enroll for fall, spring, or summer semester. At Central Washington, the online classes follow a quarter schedule, meaning students start in fall, winter, spring, or summer.
Due to academic schedules, many of the online schools in Washington do not offer courses starting every week or month. Prospective students can plan ahead, however, by researching the next class start date at their intended institution and completing their admission process in advance of the start date. Online schools may accept rolling admissions, meaning students can apply at any time to join the program, or set an admission deadline for each semester or quarter. Students needing an earlier start date may be able to enroll in an online college outside of Washington state and transfer the credits to their Washington program.
Which online colleges will accept FAFSA in Washington?
Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to qualify for federal financial aid. Aid includes financial support through the Stafford Loan, Perkins Loan, subsidized and unsubsidized loans, and federal work study programs. Not all online colleges accept FAFSA; in order to qualify, the program must hold regional accreditation from an agency that holds approval from the U.S. Department of Education. Prospective students can look up qualifying colleges and universities in the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
The best online colleges in Washington, including WSU’s Global Campus, Central Washington University, City University of Seattle, and Western Washington University, hold regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). In addition, all the schools ranked in our best online colleges in Washington list hold accreditation, meaning students can apply federal financial aid toward their degree.
Are there any free online classes I can take from Washington colleges?
Several Washington colleges offer free online classes, which are available to students in any state. Many operate as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These classes may incorporate live or pre-recorded lectures, assigned readings, discussion forums, and assignments. Students in Washington can take free online classes through several Washington colleges and universities.
For example, the University of Washington offers free online classes through multiple outlets, including UW Online, Coursera, and edX. Some of these courses base their content on information taught in the university’s certificate and degree programs. The free online classes offered by the UW include courses on programming languages, cybersecurity, public speaking, and information technology. Depending on the format, students taking a free online course may be able to complete the class at their own pace, or the course may start on a certain date and involve a cohort of other learners.
Keep in mind that free online classes do not typically grant college credit, nor can they be applied toward a degree. In some cases, students may be able to complete a certification through taking these online classes if they pay a small fee.
How can I find the online program options at Washington’s colleges?
With multiple online colleges in Washington, prospective students may look to a program’s support services and other options to narrow down their choices. Many of the top online colleges in Washington offer tools and services for prospective students. UW Online, for example, offers bachelor’s degree completion programs fully online, and WSU Global Campus provides multiple undergraduate and graduate degree options. These programs also provide online learner support, including academic advisors, tech support, and online tutoring.
Prospective students can identify the best online colleges in Washington, as well as the most affordable online colleges in Washington, by using our ranking. Visiting each school’s online learning site also helps prospective students learn more about the degree options, student services, and online learning tools offered by each college.
Washington Scholarships and Grants
Students attending online colleges in Washington qualify for several scholarship and grant opportunities. The federal Pell Grant program offers financial aid for undergraduate students demonstrating financial need. In addition, private foundations and state programs provide financial assistance in the form of scholarships for students who meet the eligibility guidelines.
Educator Retooling Conditional Scholarship ProgramFunded by the Washington state legislature, the program grants awards to currently licensed and employed Washington teachers who plan to return to school and teach in the state’s teacher shortage areas.
Scholarship Amount: $3,000
Ajia Matthews Educational Scholarship FundWashington high school graduates attending a two- or four-year college, including technical colleges, can apply for the scholarship. Applicants must submit their SAT or ACT scores, two letters of recommendation, and a copy of a letter of acceptance to a two- or four-year college.
Scholarship Amount: $5,000
Pride Foundation ScholarshipThe Pride Foundation offers more than 60 scholarship with a single application. Applicants should identify as LBGTQ, straight allies, or students from LGBT families. Applicants should be residents of Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, or Oregon, or attend school in an eligible state.
Scholarship Amount: varies
Stim Bullitt Civic Courage ScholarshipOffered by the Seattle Public Library Foundation, the scholarship competition awards funds to high school seniors and undergraduates who live, work, or attend school in Seattle. Applicants submit an essay about an individual or group from Washington that demonstrates civic courage.
Scholarship Amount: $5,000
Scottish Rite ScholarshipScottish Rite offers multiple awards each year for Washington residents. The merit-based scholarship does not consider financial need. Applicants must attend an accredited four-year college or university in Washington as a full-time student and maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Scholarship Amount: $3,000