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Best Online Colleges in Washington

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Students looking to attend an online college in Washington have a wide range of options available. The State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), for example, created the Direct Course Sharing program in fall of 2016, which allows member schools to cross-list courses for students to take at other schools – campus or online. Direct Course Sharing replaced the state’s previous Washington Online (WAOL) system and simplified administration by eliminating WAOL IDs and adopting single-payer billing. The latter made it far easier for students to figure out and process all tuition payments and financial aid awards.

At the four-year level, Washington students can pursue online college degrees at one of 26 online-friendly institutions. These schools have full-fledged online platforms to maximum student experience and learning via multimedia and interactive technologies. The University of Washington’s UW Online provides online learning opportunities in ten main areas of study and three separate levels (certificate, bachelor’s, and master’s). For those in Washington thinking about online college outside of the state, Washington belongs to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which promotes resources sharing and, perhaps most importantly, tuition reciprocity across its 16 member states.

Washington’s online colleges and universities present opportunity, whether you’re looking for a 2-year credential, a 4-year degree, full-time or part-time. Read on to discover the best option for you, and to see which schools came out on top in 2018.

Accredited Online Colleges in Washington

It’s tough to say which online college in Washington is the absolute best. Each school listed here offers a unique set of options that may or may not work for a prospective student. Where one student may need the most affordable degree program available, another may want one with a strong job placement service or a shorter timeline to graduation. Regardless of specific needs, the list below breaks down some of the state’s best options, from two-year community colleges to full-fledged universities with multiple online degrees. See who made the list of the top online colleges in Washington for 2018.

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number University Score Cost Graduation Rate Location University Information
1 Washington State University 100.00 $$$$$ 65% Pullman, WA

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.

2 Heritage University 99.80 $$$$$ 15% Toppenish, WA

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.

3 Central Washington University 98.83 $$$$$ 51% Ellensburg, WA

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.

4 University of Washington-Seattle Campus 98.67 $$$$$ 81% Seattle, WA

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.

5 Faith Evangelical College & Seminary 96.29 $$$$$ 83% Tacoma, WA

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.

6 City University of Seattle 92.26 $$$$$ 0% Seattle, WA

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.

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2-Year Best College Ranking

number University Score Cost Graduation Rate Location University Information
1 Shoreline Community College 100.00 $$$$$ N/A Shoreline, WA

In-Depth Look: Online Colleges in Washington

The U.S. Department of Education reports that 39,402 higher education students in Washington enrolled in at least a single online course in 2012. This represents 10.6% of all college students in the state. Just over half of those students took all their coursework fully online that year. Online colleges in Washington continue to offer these students additional learning/life flexibility by removing commutes to campus and, in many cases, allowing them to work at their own pace.

The state of Washington has also expanded financial aid grants to its undergraduate students. The State Need Grant, in the amount of $299 million, stands to help an estimated 69,400 low-income students pay for their college education. To qualify, a student must be at or below 70% of the state’s median family income. Washington’s College Bound Scholarship and State Work Study programs will also help low- and middle-income students during the 2017-18 school year to the tune of $34 million and 22,000 served.

By the Numbers

The U.S. Department of Education’s most recent findings show that 10.6% of Washington state college students enrolled in at least one distance learning course in 2012. Just under 28,000 (7.5%) took all their coursework completely online. Here’s a detailed breakdown of these online students, including their various levels and location of learning (2012).

9/10 were undergraduates
28% of full-time online students lived in WA
35% were enrolled at public, 4-year institutions
18% of 2-year students enrolled in at least one online class