Top 10 Online Colleges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is home to numerous colleges and universities that have been around for more than 100 years. The state has a rich tradition of academic achievement, and thanks to advances in distance education, you don’t have to move across the state (or the country) to study at one of Pennsylvania’s historic schools.

Online degree programs let you work toward a new credential without uprooting your life. And the credentials they give you are usually the same as you’d earn on campus. So you’re free to pursue an education that fits your schedule.

To help you sort through the top online schools in Pennsylvania, we’ve used data from The National Center for Education Statistics and ratings from school-ranking entities like TheBestSchools.org, BestColleges.com, OnlineColleges.net, and AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org.

We’ll show you each school’s:

  • Location
  • Tuition cost
  • Admissions rate
  • Graduation rate
  • Number of online degrees
  • Student population
  • Student to faculty ratio
  • Awards and accolades
  • Accreditation
  • Anything else we think will help you decide

Let’s find an online school you’ll love! For starters, here are some highlights:

Most affordable

If you live in Pennsylvania, a few of these schools can give you a pretty affordable education. But one school is significantly more affordable than all the others, regardless of where you live. Slippery Rock University (#8 on our list) costs about $10,000 per year in-state, and about $14,000 per year out-of-state. To be fair, Penn State’s World Campus (#1) is right there, too. An education from this top-notch university runs about $14,000 per year for both in-state and out-of-state students.

Best graduation rate

An education is valuable in itself, but odds are you’re going to school because you want the credentials. Eight of the options on this list have above average graduation rates. But if you’re worried about graduating, look no further than #3 on our list, Villanova University. Nine out of ten VU students walk away with a degree.

Most online degree options

Your degree program can completely change your career path, so it’s important to find a field that interests you. Most schools don’t have nearly as many online options as they do on campus. Several schools on this list have decent selections, but one of them has far more programs than the others.

Drexel University (#2) offers more than 60 online degree programs, with plenty of choices for undergraduates and graduates alike.

Now, on to the top ten!

1. Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

Penn State campus
Image source: Penn State World Campus
Location: University Park, Pennsylvania
Tuition cost: about $14,000 per year
Admissions rate: 58%
Graduation rate: 25%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 38
  • Graduate: 49

Student population: 13,000+
Student to faculty ratio: 13 to 1
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on TheBestSchools.org: 1
  • Rank on AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org: 5
  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 6
  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 7

Penn State University offers more than 80 online degree programs through their World Campus. They’ve been providing university-level online education for more than 20 years.

PSU’s World Campus is #3 on our list of the best online schools in the US.

Their individual online degree programs are also some of the best around. Here are their most notable online degrees:

Undergraduate

Graduate

Here’s how online learning works at Penn State’s World Campus:

In 2010, Penn State was #1 on The Wall Street Journal’s list of recruiter-preferred schools. Companies like Penn State because they have such a wide range of exceptional programs. It’s a “one-stop-shop” for hiring.

Referring to the online-discussion forums, the director of one of Penn State’s online programs said, “What we find out is that the students are not only students, but they’re also teachers.”

As you work through the materials with fellow students at Penn State, you’ll add their perspectives to your own.

Here’s how one student described the community approach to online learning:

“The professors and instructors are top-notch, encouraging in-depth interaction among classmates in a way that did not feel forced.”

2. Drexel University

Drexel University campus
Image source: Drexel University
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Tuition cost: about $59,000 total*
Admissions rate: 75%
Graduation rate: 70%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 13
  • Graduate: 50+

Student population: 24,000+
Student to faculty ratio: 10 to 1
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on TheBestSchools.org: 2
  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 5
  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 8

Drexel University offers a sampling of online undergraduate degrees and wide range of online graduate programs.

Drexel is one of the top online colleges in the country (#17).

Their online master of education program is #5 in the country.

In most online classes, recorded lectures let you “go to class” on your schedule. But when you’re watching a professor in front of a green screen, you can miss some valuable material that comes up in class discussions. At the very least, you may not be able to participate in these conversations. But when you take classes online at Drexel, some of your courses have live online classrooms where you can jump into the conversation from your computer.

At Drexel Online, you’ll have online access to their award winning W.W. Hagerty Library, their writing center, and the Steinbright Career Center.

You can learn more about Drexel’s online classes in this video:

If you’re worried about being able to build relationships with faculty and staff as an online student, see what former online students have to say:

You can also hear from online students from a range of degree programs here:

*Tuition rates are different for every program at Drexel.

3. Villanova University

Villanova University online
Image source: Villanova University
Location: Villanova, Pennsylvania
Tuition cost: about $49,000 per year
Admissions rate: 44%
Graduation rate: 90%
Placement rate: 96.5%*
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 1
  • Graduate: 18

Student population: 10,000+
Student to faculty ratio: 12 to 1
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 1
  • Rank on TheBestSchools.org: 3
  • Rank on AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org: 7

Villanova University offers graduate-level online degree programs in STEM and business-related fields, as well as law. They also have a strong selection of online certificate programs, and an online RN to BSN program for undergraduates.

The school used to offer several online degree completion programs, but those appear to be discontinued.

Villanova University has one of the best online master in human resource management programs (they’re #6 on our list).

Since VU is a Roman Catholic school, you can probably expect faith to play some role in your education, though it isn’t clear to what extent that is for people in non-religious studies.

Here’s what they say about it:

“All members are bonded together by a shared responsibility to uphold the ideals of Saint Augustine and let the principles of truth, unity and love guide their lives. The Villanova community helps students grow intellectually, professionally and spiritually, and challenges them to reach their full potential.”

*While the school boasts an incredible 96.5% placement rate, you should know: this includes students who are “taking time off before pursuing opportunities.” It’s pretty typical for schools to count volunteering and other activities towards their job placement rate, but this is the first time I’ve seen planned time off included in that number.

4. Duquesne University

Duquesne University campus
Image source: Duquesne University
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Tuition cost: about $35,000 per year
Admissions rate: 74%
Graduation rate: 79%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 3
  • Graduate: 11

Student population: 9,000+
Student to faculty ratio: 13 to 1
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 4
  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 4
  • Rank on TheBestSchools.org: 5

Duquesne University offers online degrees in business, education, and health, primarily focusing on graduate studies. This Catholic school has been around for more than 130 years.

“Our online programs are student-centric and distinguished by the close relationships online students create with professors and classmates through small class sizes and with advisors and support services staff dedicated to helping students achieve personal and professional goals.”

To foster close relationships between students and professors, these online classes “are not self-paced, independent study.” You’ll have regular interactions with professors and receive feedback on your work.

Duquesne University has a unique online writing center, where online students can schedule one-on-one meetings with a professional writing consultant. These 45 minute sessions are not for proofreading–they’re for learning strategies to improve your techniques and master the writing process.

5. Saint Joseph’s University

Saint Joseph’s University campus
Image source: Saint Joseph’s University
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Tuition cost: about $16,000 per year
Admissions rate: 78%
Graduation rate: 80%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 3
  • Graduate: 15

Student population: 8,000+
Student to faculty ratio: 12 to 1
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 6
  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 7
  • Rank on AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org: 9

Saint Joseph’s University offers online degrees in business, education, health, and criminal justice. Additionally, they have a variety of online certificate programs.

Their online master’s in health administration program is #7 in the country.

Here’s what they want you to know about their school:

“For 160 years, Saint Joseph’s University has helped men and women prepare for their professional lives by providing a rigorous Jesuit education–one that challenges and expands knowledge, deepens understanding, emphasizes critical thinking and communication, fosters the development of moral and spiritual character, and builds enduring pride.”

Learn more about what it’s like to be an online student at SJU in this video:

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6. DeSales University

Desales University logo
Image source: Desales University
Location: Center Valley, Pennsylvania
Tuition cost: about $35,000 per year
Admissions rate: 76%
Graduation rate: 68%
Employment rate: 98%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 13
  • Graduate: 0

Student population: 3,000+
Student to faculty ratio: 13 to 1
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on TheBestSchools.org: 7

DeSales University offers online undergraduate programs primarily in business, health, and criminal justice. They also offer online certificate programs in business and theology. There are 19 hybrid bachelor’s degree programs as well, which combine online and on-campus classes.

DeSales University’s online programs include some classes that are synchronous, meaning there is a fixed schedule, and you attend online at particular times.

While DU has a pretty good employment rate, it’s worth noting that only 5–12 percent of alumni responded to the survey in each major, so the data isn’t really representative. Of those surveyed, 82 percent received job offers within 6 months of graduation. 91 percent said they would recommend DeSales, and 85 percent believe their degree was a good investment.

7. Chatham University

Chatham University campus
Image source: Chatham University
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Tuition cost: about $35,000 per year
Admissions rate: 53%
Graduation rate: 52%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 4
  • Graduate: 10

Student population: 2,100+
Student to faculty ratio: 10 to 1
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 2
  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 2

Chatham University offers online degree programs in health, business, psychology, writing, and architecture. They also have a few online nursing certificate programs. Some of these have a “low residency” requirement, so they involve a little time on campus.

Most colleges use the same couple of tools for online classes. Chatham University uses several programs to help professors and students connect, several of which I haven’t seen other schools using.

Here’s what Chatham’s graduates have in common:

“Through professional skill development and liberal arts learning, Chatham prepares its graduates to be informed and engaged citizens in their communities; to recognize and respect diversity of culture, identity, and opinion; and to live sustainably.”

Chatham University has received numerous honors for being environmentally conscious. You can see all CU’s awards and honors here.

8. Slippery Rock University

Slippery Rock University campus
Image source: Slippery Rock University
Location: Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania
Tuition cost:

  • In-state: about $10,000 per year
  • Out-of-state: about $14,000 per year

Admissions rate: 69%
Graduation rate:  68%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 5
  • Graduate: 16

Student population: 8,800+
Student to faculty ratio: 22 to 1
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 5
  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 8

Slippery Rock University offers online bachelor’s degree completion programs in leadership related subjects, nursing, and liberal arts. They also offer graduate degrees in education, data management, and criminal justice. Additionally, there are several online certificate programs.

The eligibility requirements for SRU’s degree completion programs varies. Some require an associate’s degree or 60 credits, while others simply require some prerequisite classes.

More than 125 years ago, Slippery Rock began as a school for teachers. Over time, they have built on that heritage to provide exceptional teaching degree programs, and they’ve expanded into other fields as well.

9. Misericordia University

Misericordia University campus
Image source: Misericordia University
Location: Dallas, Pennsylvania
Tuition cost: about $31,000 per year
Admissions rate: 74%
Graduation rate: 74%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 11
  • Graduate: 5

Student population: 2,800
Student to faculty ratio: 11 to 1
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 9
  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 10

Misericordia University offers online degree programs in health and business. Some of these are hybrid programs which require time on campus. There are a handful of certificate programs as well.

A lot of schools say that online students have some access to the same tools as on-campus students, implying that some services aren’t available, or are less available to online students. That’s not the case with Misericordia University:

“Whether it is for IT support, to meet with your advisor, or take advantage of on-campus resources such as the Insalaco Center for Career Development, our state-of-the-art library, or modern fitness center, online students share the same access to University facilities as traditional students.”

One graduate had this to say about her experience at Misericordia:

“I spent a lot of time reviewing various online programs, and I chose Misericordia because it seemed their program would provide the best quality education; and I was right. Every class I took, whether it was Current Issues and Trends in Nursing, Themes in Art, Pharmacology, Statistics or Religion helped me be a better nurse, a better community member, and a better crossword player! The best part was that I could do it while maintaining a job, family life and community volunteer work. Finally, the clinical experience that my advisor helped me set up was so perfect as it gave me the experience I needed to help me get the job of my dreams, that I secured not long after graduation.”

10. Robert Morris University

Robert Morris University campus
Image source: Robert Morris University
Location: Moon Township, Pennsylvania
Tuition cost: about $29,000 per year
Admissions rate: 80%
Graduation rate: 61%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 6
  • Graduate: 14

Student population: 5,100+
Student to faculty ratio: 15 to 1
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on TheBestSchools.org: 3

Robert Morris University offers online degree programs in business and leadership, information systems and technology, health, education, criminal justice, and engineering.

RMU sees itself as a student-centric school, and attending online doesn’t change that. There’s an entire team of professionals in your corner:

“Online students at Robert Morris University get the same type of personal attention from the same professors you’ll find on campus. You get a dedicated student counselor to help you with enrollment issues or any other questions you may have. You get a dedicated career advisor to help you with your professional goals. You also get a dedicated wellness counselor, a financial aid counselor, and 24-hour technology support. We even offer a unique study abroad component to give you the opportunity for global engagement.”

Here’s how one RMU grad juggled being a mom, having a job, and taking courses online:

A quick note on transferring schools

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, more than one-third of all college students transfer schools before graduating. In order to transfer your credits from one school to another, the two schools usually have to be accredited by the same organizations.

Thankfully, all of these schools are regionally-accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. That means you should be able to transfer between them pretty easily.

Should I go to an online school in Pennsylvania?

These are the top online schools in Pennsylvania. Two of them made the cut for our list of the best online schools in the country, but if you’re looking at online schools, you probably don’t have to limit your options to Pennsylvania. Unless you’re really attached to one of these schools because you grew up rooting for their teams, or someone you know went there, I’d recommend broadening your search.

If you’re looking at in-state schools because you heard out-of-state schools cost more, you should know: that doesn’t apply to a lot of online schools. Notice how some of the colleges on this list don’t separate in-state and out-of-state tuition? Many schools have one tuition rate for all online students, regardless of where they live. And since you won’t have to move anyways (you’re an online student, after all), it certainly can’t hurt to look outside Pennsylvania.

The most undergraduate degrees offered by any of these schools is a little over 60. Most of these colleges offer a lot fewer than that. But some schools in other parts of the country offer well over 100 fully online degree options. Check it out.

The best school is really up to you

We can’t tell you exactly which online college is the best choice for you—and you shouldn’t let anyone else do that, either. You have to weigh the factors that are most important to you and let that guide your decision. Choosing a school is a huge investment—both in terms of what it immediately costs you and how it affects your life. So take your time.

We hope this list has helped make the decision a little easier for you. Good luck in your future studies!

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