Top 10 Online Colleges in Washington State

In a lot of ways, Washington feels like two different states. Western Washington is a hub for technological innovation, hosting companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. And eastern Washington boasts a thriving agriculture that greatly contributes to the economy. Both sides have well-known universities with strong degree programs.

Thanks to distance education, you don’t have to move across the state (or to the state) to benefit from these schools. Technology is taking distance education to new heights, and both new and well-established colleges have adapted to meet the needs of people with jobs, families, and other commitments that make traditional education more difficult.

Online schools let you keep your priorities the same while still working towards a new credential. 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 with your life.

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

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 Washington, a lot of these schools can give you a pretty affordable education. But one of these schools is almost half the cost of the next most affordable school. Peninsula College (#8 on our list) can get you a quality online degree for less than $5,000 per year whether you live in Washington or not.

Technically, there’s one college on this list that’s even more affordable. I say technically because they only offer degree completion programs at the undergraduate level, so you have to earn half of your degree somewhere else first. Eastern Washington University’s online tuition is one of the lowest tuitions in the country. They’re #10 on our list, and if you complete half your degree somewhere else, EWU can get you the rest for about $3,500. That’s insanely low.

Best graduation rate

An education is valuable in itself, but odds are you’re going to school because you want the credentials. If you’re worried about graduating, you’ve got some pretty safe options on this list. Interestingly, the school that’s the hardest to get into is also the one with the best graduation rate. University of Washington only admits 45% of applicants, but of those who get in, 84% graduate.

A couple other schools on this list have higher than average graduation rates, but your next best bet is Faith International University (#9). They have an 80% graduation rate—and an open admissions policy, so you’re guaranteed to get in.

Most online degree options

The degree program you choose 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. There’s a school on this list that only has one online program. If you want to make sure you have the most possible choices, check out #2 on our list, City University of Seattle. They have 26 online degree programs to choose from.

Now, on to the top ten!

1. Washington State University Global Campus

Washington State University Global Campus
Image source: WSU

Location: Pullman, Washington (plus three other locations)
Tuition cost:

  • In-state part-time: about $60,000 total
  • Out-of-state part-time: about $68,000 total
  • In-state full-time: about $33,000 total
  • Out-of-state full-time: about $38,000 total

Admissions rate: 72%
Graduation rate: 67%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 12
  • Graduate: 11

Student population: 30,000+
Student to faculty ratio: 15 to 1
Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 1
  • Rank on TheBestSchools.org: 1
  • Rank on AffordableCollegeOnline.org: 1
  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 2
  • #11 top online college in the U.S.

Washington State University offers a decent selection of online degrees, but they’re Washington’s best online school because they’ve fully embraced an online “campus” experience. Through WSU’s Global Campus, students can:

  • Participate in online career fairs
  • Showcase their research through a digital pavillion
  • Watch webinars hosted by University experts
  • Join online events
  • And more . . .

Here’s how WSU describes the Global Campus:

“The Global Campus is a door that connects the world to WSU and WSU to the world. It provides access to the best of WSU for students, faculty, and anyone seeking to gain or share knowledge. The Global Campus consists of five pillars, each of which advances WSU’s mission to bring education beyond geographic boundaries. And it goes beyond education to create a virtual gathering place that offers a true campus experience.”

You can learn more about the Global Campus in this video:

One student shared about the long road that led from high school to WSU’s Global Campus, where she finally completed a degree she’d started nearly 20 years earlier:

“Well, I had started my degree right after I graduated from high school, just like most kids do. I went to Tacoma Community College, got my two-year degree, was funding it with myself and my parents’ support, went on to the University of Washington in Tacoma, funded that same way, working hard, working full-time, and I literally ran out of money and took a break. And once I got into the career path that I’m in now, my boss really encouraged me to go back and finish so that I could have a promotion at my job.”

WSU’s Global Campus also offers non-credit earning professional development courses and free online education.

2. City University of Seattle

City University Seattle campus
Image source: City University of Seattle

Location: Seattle, Washington
Tuition cost: about $17,000 per year
Admissions rate: open admissions policy
Graduation rate: 24%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 12
  • Graduate: 14

Student population: 1,800+
Student to faculty ratio: 11 to 1
Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 3
  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 3
  • Rank on TheBestSchools.org: 5
  • Rank on AffordableCollegesOnline.org: 6

City University of Seattle offers most of their degrees on campus and online, and they have options for both undergraduate and graduate students.

CityU says the main reason students choose their school is convenience and flexibility. They also have a generous transfer policy, allowing up to 135 credits to come from another school. While CityU doesn’t publish a job placement rate, a survey revealed that 95% of students “felt they would see a return on the investment that they were making with CityU.”

Some of CityU’s programs are performance based, which means you can complete your education as fast as you can learn the required material. Here’s how they put it:

“Performance-based programs allow students to earn credit in an innovative manner that recognizes the skills they have developed in the working world. Once students demonstrate that they have a developed skill or set of skills he or she is able to earn credits for the knowledge they have already mastered and move on to the material that he or she does not know.”

Basically, once you can pass the necessary tests, you can get your credits and move on. That’s how some of the fastest online degree programs in the country work.

3. Central Washington University

Central Washington University campus
Image source: CWU

Location: Ellensburg, Washington
Tuition cost:

  • In-state: about $8,000 per year
  • Out-of-state: about $22,000 per year (out-of-state tuition waivers available for online students)

Admissions rate: 80%
Graduation rate: 52%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 12
  • Graduate: 10

Student population: about 12,000
Student to faculty ratio: 18 to 1
Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on AffordableColleges.org: 2
  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 2
  • Rank on TheBestSchools.org: 2
  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 4

Central Washington University is a good choice for students who already have some postsecondary education. They have online degree completion programs and online master’s programs, but there are no bachelor’s degree programs, so this isn’t an option if you haven’t at least started a degree program at another school.

Several of Central’s online programs offer specializations and include internship opportunities, which helps you craft your education to fit the career you want.

These four programs are technically “hybrid” programs, and require some time on-campus:

  • B.S. in paramedicine
  • Ed.S. in psychology
  • M.S. in health and physical education
  • M.S. in athletic administration

At the time we posted this list, Central cannot accept students from the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri

If you haven’t started a bachelor’s program yet, but want to go to CWU, check out the prerequisites for the program you’re interested in, and consider getting started at one of these other schools. Most of them are accredited by the same organization, so transferring shouldn’t be a problem.

4. Northwest University

Northwest University campus
Image source: Northwest University

Location: Kirkland, Washington
Tuition cost: about $29,000 per year
Admissions rate: 93%
Graduation rate: 56%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 8
  • Graduate: 6

Student population: 1,200+
Student to faculty ratio: 9 to 1
Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on TheBestSchools.org: 4
  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 6
  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 9

Northwest University has several online degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Here’s what NU says about their online programs:

“With over 80 years of experience, we’ve taken all of that knowledge to create online courses that engage, inspire, and prepare. Many of our online courses are identical to our on-campus programs.”

NU is a Christian university. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be required to take Bible-centered courses, but Northwest University says every class is approached from a Christian perspective:

“Every course we offer has a unique component that helps you understand how the subject relates to your faith. Unlike other online programs, NU actually encourages your faith.”

Your instructors aren’t just subject matter experts. They’re teachers.

“The online instructors at Northwest University aren’t simply hired for their knowledge,” NU says. “We also look for professors who love students and bring out their very best. Many come from local companies and offer real-world insight into your career.”

5. University of Washington

University of Washington campus
Image source: UW

Location: Seattle, Washington (plus two other campuses)
Tuition cost:

  • In-state: about $11,000 per year
  • Out-of-state: about $35,000 per year

Admissions rate: 45%
Graduation rate: 84%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 2
  • Graduate: 18

Student population: 45,000+
Student to faculty ratio: 17 to 1
Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on OnlineCollegePlan.com: 3
  • Rank on TheBestSchools.org: 3
  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 1

University of Washington has a pretty sparse offering for online undergraduate students, but if you already have a bachelor’s there’s plenty of master’s degrees to choose from. UW also has a ton of online courses you can take for credit, and some online classes that won’t earn credit but teach you specialized skills, such as coding languages.

For Washington natives, it’s probably pretty surprising to see one of the state’s most popular and prestigious schools so far down the list, but their online undergraduate degree selection is seriously limited.

If you find classes or a program you’re interested in though, here’s why UW says you should choose their programs:

“The University of Washington has clout. You don’t have to wonder if we’re accredited. You don’t have to worry that we’ll disappear overnight. We’re one of the world’s most distinguished public universities. And we’ve been educating your mentors and capable colleagues for a very long time. You know it. Your neighbors know it. And your future employers know it, too.”

6. Western Washington University

Western Washington University campus
Image source: WWU

Location: Bellingham, Washington
Tuition cost:

  • In-state: about $8,000 per year
  • Out-of-state: about $22,000 per year

Admissions rate: 83%
Graduation rate: 69%
Job placement rate: 58%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 1
  • Graduate: 0

Student population: 15,000+
Student to faculty ratio: 19 to 1
Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 4
  • Rank on AffordableCollegesOnline.org: 5
  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 6

Western Washington University only has one online degree program: a bachelor’s in human services. So why are they on this list? WWU still has a great selection of online courses. So even if you aren’t interested in human services, there are plenty of other subjects you can explore.

Here’s what a student had to say about her experience as an online student at WWU:

You could also start at WWU to get your general requirements out of the way, and then choose a degree completion program at a school like Central. (Be warned though, the Vikings and Wildcats are rivals.)

The human services program has field experience and an internship built into the curriculum, so you’ll graduate with some professional experience already under your belt. Western also shared that 58% of their recent human services graduates were employed in a related field. That’s not an astounding job placement rate, but it means you’re more likely to get a job than not!

7. Heritage University

Heritage University online
Image source: Pinterest

Location: Toppenish, Washington
Tuition cost: about $19,000 per year
Admissions rate: open admissions policy
Graduation rate: 17%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 1
  • Graduate: 3

Student population: 1,100+
Student to faculty ratio: 7 to 1
Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on AffordableCollegesOnline.org: 3
  • Rank on OnlineColleges.net: 5

Heritage University has one online undergraduate degree and three online graduate degrees. If you want to study English or work in education, this is one of the better online options in Washington.

Like most online teaching programs, HU’s education-related programs are blended online and on-campus. In a field that’s so dependent on your interpersonal skills, it’s hard to facilitate an entire program online and still feel prepared to enter the profession. You’ll have an internship and at least five days on campus per year.

Your courses are taught by professionals straight from the field, including superintendents, principals, and teachers.

Heritage University can’t accept online students from the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida, Hawaii
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas

8. Peninsula College

Peninsula College campus
Image source: LinkedIn

Location: Port Angeles, Washington
Tuition cost:

  • In-state: about $4,500 per year
  • Out-of-state: about $5,000 per year

Admissions rate: open admissions policy
Graduation rate: 29%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 19
  • Graduate: 0

Student population: 2,100+
Student to faculty ratio: 13 to 1
Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on AffordableCollegesOnline.org: 4
  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 7

Peninsula College has 18 online associate’s degree programs and one online bachelor’s degree program.

If you want to complete a four year degree, PC can still be a great place to get started. Their AA degrees cover a wide range of fields, and one of them is even labelled a “transfer degree.” This program is designed to get your general requirements out of the way so that you can jump right into a four year degree program of your choice. (This is also a good option if you’re interested in a degree completion program.)

9. Faith International University & Seminary

Faith International University and Seminary campus
Image source: The Christian College Directory

Location: Tacoma, Washington
Tuition cost: about $8,000 per year
Admissions rate: open admissions policy
Graduation rate: 80%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 4
  • Graduate: 7

Student population: 500+
Student to faculty ratio: 15 to 1
Accreditation: Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on AffordableCollegesOnline.org: 7
  • Rank on OnlineCollegePlan.com: 7

Faith International University & Seminary has several online degrees for undergraduate and graduate students. Some are fully online and some are hybrid programs.

FIU is the only school on this list that isn’t regionally accredited. This college is nationally accredited, which means it will be harder to transfer schools or pursue graduate studies at another school later. Your degree itself should still carry the same weight with employers (aside from the fact that they probably won’t have heard of FIU), so it’s online degrees are still worthwhile. If you want to transfer schools or go to graduate school though, you’ll probably have to do it at another college that’s accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.

FIU is by far the smallest school on this list. It was founded by Lutherans Alert-International in 1969. Each of their programs “calls for students who demonstrate a potential for ministry, a faithful commitment to the Word of God, a heart for Christian service, and the personal discipline necessary to complete degree requirements.” In addition to typical admission requirements, students must sign a doctrinal statement and biblical code of conduct.

10. Eastern Washington University

Eastern Washington University campus
Image source: YouTube

Location: Cheney, Washington
Tuition cost: about $3,500 total
Admissions rate: 95%
Graduation rate: 47%
Number of online degrees:

  • Undergraduate: 4
  • Graduate: 4

Student population: 12,000+
Student to faculty ratio: 21 to 1
Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Awards and accolades:

  • Rank on BestColleges.com: 8

Eastern Washington University offers online undergraduate degree completion programs and online graduate degree programs. They also offer online add-on endorsements for teachers, and 13 different online minors you can add to your degree.

Like Central, Eastern is a good option for students who have already earned an AA degree or about two years worth of credits at another school. The selection of degree completion programs is a lot smaller, but the tuition is a lot lower, too.

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, nine of these schools are regionally-accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. That means you should be able to transfer between them pretty easily. So you might start your degree at a school like Western Washington University and then take advantage of a degree completion program at a school like Central—or even transfer out-of-state.

Should I go to an online school in Washington?

These are the top online schools in Washington. And only one of them made the cut for our list of the best online schools in the country. 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 online schools have one tuition rate, regardless of where you live. And since you won’t have to move anyways (you’re an online student, after all), it certainly can’t hurt to look.

The most undergraduate degrees offered by any of these schools is 19. Most have a lot less than that. 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!

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *