Online Colleges in Virginia

When Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, he hoped to make Virginia a center for learning and personal enrichment. Today dozens of colleges across the state continue to fulfill his mission, and online learning in the state promises to make education even more accessible. Read on to learn more about online colleges in Virginia, and how to choose one.

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Introduction

William and Mary. The University of Virginia. Virginia Tech. Virginia is home to dozens of well-known colleges and universities, but it is the state's ongoing commitment to expanding educational access -- especially through technology -- that really keeps it in the cutting edge. Virginia was among the first states to really embrace online education, both in terms of financial investments and policy support. Exhibit A: Virginia's contributions to the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), a nonprofit organization comprised of governors, legislators, and educators dedicated to helping students in the region find quality education options.

The SREB's Electronic Campus is a database of online education offerings from schools throughout the South. Prospective students can browse courses and degrees by subject area, institution, and program level. According to a 2014 report detailing SREB goals and progress within the Commonwealth, the Electronic Campus gave students access to nearly 25,000 online courses and more than 2,500 online degree programs. As of May 2014, 56 Virginia institutions participated in the SREB's Electronic Campus, and yet this represents just a sampling of online programs available in the state.

The nonprofit Lumina Foundation reports that as of the 2012 Census, 45.3 percent of Virginians between the ages of 25 and 64 held at least a two-year degree, putting Virginia's attainment rate was well above the national average of 39.4 percent.. But, this may not be quite enough: The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce projects that by 2018, 64 percent of Virginia jobs will require postsecondary education. Lumina notes that if degree attainment in Virginia continues to climb at its current rate, only 48.8 percent of its residents will have degrees by that year. The Commonwealth must find new ways to boost higher education within its borders, and one way it may do that is through its commitment to fostering online degree options.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2013, an estimated 3.6 million Virginia workers earned a mean annual wage of $50,120 -- well above the national average. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia estimates that a Bachelor's degree holder earns an average of $1 million more over a lifetime than someone with only a high school diploma; doctorate holders can expect to earn $1 million more than those with Bachelor's degrees.

Many traditional brick-and-mortar institutions like the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech now offer online degree programs, but there are many career colleges and national online schools operating within the state, too. These schools were often the first to explore online learning, so boast a wider range of degrees. Some, such as Strayer University and ITT Technical Institute, even have campuses in Virginia where students can attend class as well. Prospective students should research different schools and degree options to find a program that fits both their personal and academic needs.

The Top 10 List of Online Colleges in Virginia

As detailed above, Virginians have access to thousands of online programs, and that number is only likely to grow over time. Prospective students should consider a number of factors when researching programs, like accreditation status, degree type, program availability and cost. Here are ten online colleges in Virginia, sorted by tuition (lowest to highest.) Tuition data for the 2013-2014 school year was sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics, and lists in-state tuition, when in-state tuition is offered at the school.


#1 - Old Dominion University

  • In-State Tuition: $8,550 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 28 Bachelor's degrees, 29 Master's degrees, 7 Doctorate degrees, 10 certificate and licensing programs, and 18 minors.
  • Notable Alumni: Astronaut Michael Bloomfield, poet Maya Angelou, Olympic medalist Lashawn Merritt, professional wrestler Paul Diamond, U.S. Congresswoman Sherman Edwards, U.S. Navy Admiral William J. Fallon, and former Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr.

Old Dominion University is a public doctoral research institution located in Norfolk. The university launched its original satellite delivery program, TELETECHNET, in 1994, and has since graduated more than 10 thousand students through its distance learning programs. ODU considers itself a "national leader in distance learning" offering more than 60 online degree and certificate programs.


#2 - Averett University

  • Tuition: $9,000 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: One Associate degree, 3 Bachelor's degrees and 7 Master's degrees, including 3 specialty MBAs.

Averett University says it has been a leader in higher education for more than 150 years, and its online learning programs are an extension of its mission. According to its official website, AU's online courses are every bit as effective and convenient as its classroom-based courses, but allow a great deal more flexibility. AU's Individually Designed Education for Adult Learners (IDEAL) program is designed explicitly to support busy students whose jobs or lifestyles make traditional college courses difficult. Students can earn online degrees in areas like business, criminal justice, sociology, sports management and more.


#3 - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

  • In-State Tuition: $11,455 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 8 certificates and 13 Master's degrees, but students can also complete select Bachelor's-level courses online.
  • Notable Alumni: Several military leaders, author and Wall Street Journal columnist Mike Michalowicz, Exon Chairman and CEO Clifton C. Garvin, architect Thomas M. Price, Nasa architect and flight director Chris Kraft, astronaut Roger K. Crouch, and author Homer Hickam.

Virginia Tech Online says it takes Virginia Tech's commitment to lifelong learning to heart. According to its official website, students can expect the ongoing academic support, flexible scheduling, and small classes taught by internationally renowned faculty offered in the classroom. While students can often complete some of their Bachelor's-level courses online, VTO's 100 percent online degree programs are offered at the graduate level.


#4 - Everest College - Chesapeake

  • Tuition: $11,700 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 6 online Associate degrees, 7 Bachelor's degrees and 2 Master's degrees

Everest College is a national career college that allows students to complete coursework online or through its Chesapeake campus location. According to its official website, Everest Online offers accredited, nationally recognized and career-focused degree programs with flexible courses taught by experienced, distinguished faculty members. Students enrolled in online courses have access to a diversity of additional services, including career counseling and placement support. Online degrees are offered in areas like: accounting, business, computer science, criminal justice, homeland security and paralegal studies.


#5 - Virginia Commonwealth University

  • In-State Tuition: $12,002 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 8 certificates, 2 Bachelor's degrees, 15 Master's degrees and 4 Doctoral degrees
  • Notable Alumni: Gesundheit! Institute founder Hunter "Patch" Adams, Nobel Laureate Baruj Benacerraf, actor and director Stephen Furst, Broadway actor Jason Butler Harner, President and CEO of Wells Fargo Advisors Danny Ludeman, Vietnam War hero Robert Zahradnick.

Online@VCU is Virginia Commonwealth University's online learning portal through which it offers online, hybrid and video conferencing programs. Students can enroll in single online courses, or complete entire certificate and degree programs from the comfort of home. VCU says the vast majority of its online classes are asynchronous, which means students can access lectures, assignments and other materials whenever it suits them, so long as their work is submitted by the designated due date.


#6 - University of Virginia

  • In-State Tuition: $12,668 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: One Bachelor's degree, 12 graduate certificates and many individual courses via UVa-Wise
  • Notable Alumni: Author Edgar Allen Poe, painter Georgia O'Keeffe, explorer Richard Byrd, five NASA astronauts, comedian and actress Tina Fey, Nobel Laureate James M. Buchanan, President Woodrow Wilson, U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819. According to the school's official website, Jefferson envisioned a public institution with "national character and stature" that would help train the leaders of tomorrow. Though Jefferson could not have foreseen U.Va.'s eventual venture into online education, it allows the school to see his mission through on a much broader scale. Students can complete select degree and certificate programs totally online, or just some online classes through a program called U.Va. Wise.


#7 - Stratford University

  • Tuition: $15,135 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 5 Associate degrees, 5 Bachelor's degrees and 11 Master's degrees.

Stratford University is yet another large, national college that serves Virginians online or through a handful of campuses across the Commonwealth. Stratford offers career training in a wide range of disciplines, including business, computer information systems, the culinary arts, health care and more. Prospective students may be surprised to learn that Stratford University's online degree options include some traditionally hands-on fields, like nursing. According to its official website, Stratford University's online students can expect challenging, yet flexible courses taught by experienced faculty.


#8 - Regent University

  • Tuition: $15,838 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 7 Associate degrees, 16 Bachelor's degrees, more than 30 Master's degrees and 25 Doctoral degrees.
  • Notable Alumni: Ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, former Director of Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Justice Monica Goodling, actor Tony Hale and Chief Counsel for Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice Jay Sekulow.

Regent University is a Christian college offering more than 60 "fully accredited undergraduate and graduate degree program" in a diversity of subjects, like law, education, business and more. According to its official website, Regent Online has earned national acclaim for its "exceptional academic standards," and frequently ranks among the best online Bachelor's degree programs in the nation. It also boasts an "A" rating by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni -- an honor bestowed only 22 online colleges in the nation in 2014.


#9 - ITT Technical Institute

  • Tuition: $18,048 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 15 Associate degrees and 20 Bachelor's degrees

ITT Technical Institute is another national college that allows Virginians to complete their educations online, at one of five Virginia campus, or both. According to its official website, ITT Technical Institute offers "career-focused" degree programs to more than 70,000 students each year. Students can enroll in online degree programs year-round, accessing course materials at their convenience. Degrees are offered in areas like: business, nursing, criminal justice, drafting and design, business and information technology.


#10 - Liberty University

  • Tuition: $20,768 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: "More than 250" certificates, Associate degrees, Bachelor's degrees, Master's degrees and Doctoral degrees, plus a number of K-12 courses through Liberty University Online Academy.
  • Notable Alumni: Author Susan Wise Bauer, 9lenses CEO Edwin Miller, director Don White, ESPN reporter Samantha Steele, rapper TobyMac, singer Michael Tait, and several state and national political leaders.

Liberty University is a Christian college situated in Lynchburg. It was founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, and his sons run the institution today. LU Online says it offers more than 250 certificate and degree options in a diversity of subjects, like business, criminal justice and education. Most programs can be completed 100 percent online, save a few rare exceptions that require limited, short-term study on campus. As of 2014, LU Online graduated more than 6,500 students a year.


Snapshot of Virginia Cities

Virginia's colleges and economic opportunities attract students and investors the globe over. The following guide details three of Virginia's largest metropolitan areas (by population), along with key economic, demographic and cultural trends.


The Washington-Arlington-Alexandria Metro
Economics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of July 2014, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan area supported more than 2.6 million workers. Its largest industries, by employment, that year: Professional and Business Services; Government; and Trade, Transportation, and Utilities. Wages across the DC metro tend to be well above the national average. The BLS reports that workers in the metro earned a mean annual wage of $64,260 in May 2013. The Cost of Living Index is 139.6 with housing prices averaging $788,478.

Demographics
The U.S. Census reports that as of 2012, more than 5,860,000 called the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro home, making it the seventh largest metropolitan area in the country that year by population. Cultural highlights, government and business interests, and several well known colleges and universities attract residents.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
Arlington and Alexandria border the nation's capital, and all of the opportunities and cultural highlights that accompany it. It is not uncommon for workers and students to live in one of these major Virginia cities to save on living costs, then commute by metro to DC proper for work, school or a fun day-trip. Because key museums and monuments like the Museum of National History, the Washington Monument and the National Air and Space Museum are supported by U.S. tax dollars, they do not charge for admission -- a major perk for those living on a college budget.


The Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News Metro
Economics
The Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metropolitan area, sometimes referred to as the Hampton Roads region, has a rich military tradition -- a trend that plays a role in its economic development. The BLS's Mid-Atlantic Information Office reported that as of June 2014, the region supported nearly 765,000 workers. Its largest industries, by employment: Government; Trade, Transportation, and Utilities; and Education and Health Services. The BLS reports that workers in the Virginia Beach metropolitan area earned an annual mean wage of $43,650 in May 2013, which is about on par with the national average. The average cost of a house in this area is $257,919, and the Cost of Living Index is 100.5.

Demographics
The Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Newport News area's military history, including major Air Force and Navy activity, shapes the region's population as much as its economy. As of 2012, More than 1.6 million people lived here, including 5.8 percent of the state's overall workforce, as reported by the BLS in June 2014. Its position along the Chesapeake Bay made Hampton Roads not just a center for shipyards and trade, but also research.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
First colonized in the early 1600s, the Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Newport News metro's history is long. It played a key role in a number of major trends and events, like the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Students can visit a plethora of key monuments, sites and museums, or just unwind on the beach.


Richmond
Economics
Richmond may not be Virginia's largest metropolitan region by population, but as the state's capital, it remains one of the most economically significant cities in the Commonwealth. The BLS reports that as of June 2014, Richmond's total employed labor force exceeded 658,000 workers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the state government remained one of the area's largest employers. The largest industries, by employment, that year: Trade, Transportation, and Utilities; Government; and Business and Professional Services.The BLS reports that as of May 2013, Richmond workers earned a mean annual wage of $46,500, a tad more than the national average. The Cost of Living Index is 100.6 and the average price of a house is $253,000.

Demographics
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that as of 2013, more than 214,000 people lived in Richmond, and its rate of population growth (4.8 percent between 2010 and 2013) outpaced the Commonwealth's. The BLS reports that as of July 2014, the Richmond metropolitan area was home to 5.5 percent of Virginia's total workforce. As noted above, Richmond is Virginia's capital; government and related work attracts employees of all stripes. The area also supports a handful of colleges and other cultural institutions.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
According to the website Visit Richmond, Richmond is home to no less than six Fortune 500 companies, more than any other city in Virginia. Residents and visitors can take advantage of the area's sports highlights, including two major NASCAR races a year. Other key cultural attractions: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Kings Dominion, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, numerous Civil War sites, and more. Bonus: The Atlantic Ocean, the Blue Ridge Mountains and Washington, D.C. are all within a quick two-hour drive of the city.


Helpful Resources

Students considering Virginia colleges will find no shortage of resources, especially when weighing online colleges. The Southern Regional Education Board's Electronic Campus calls itself a "comprehensive" resource for prospective students researching higher education opportunities across the South. Visitors can search for online classes by course name, degree or school name. The Electronic Campus of Virginia is another online learning database that provides Virginians of all ages with what it calls "one-stop" access to online courses. Students can search programs by institution or subject. As of 2014, 27 Virginia schools participated in the project. Virginians who would like to learn more about area colleges -- online or otherwise -- can look to the National Center for Education Statistics' College Navigator.

Students who would like to learn more about paying for college in Virginia should visit the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia online to learn more about their financial aid options. Most schools also maintain financial aid offices staffed with professionals trained to help. Keep in mind that degrees, tuition rates and other key details can change at any time, so it pays to always contact specific schools directly for the most current fee and course schedules.


Sources:

  1. Averett University, http://gps.averett.edu/online-offerings/
  2. "A Stronger Virginia through Higher Education: A policy brief from Lumina Foundation," Lumina Foundation, 2014, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/downloads/pdfs/virginia-brief-2014.pdf
  3. "C2ER," The Cost of Living Index, http://www.coli.org/
  4. CollegeNavigator, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
  5. "Economy at a Glance: Richmond, VA," Bureau of Labor Statistics, July, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.va_richmond_msa.htm
  6. Electronic Campus, Southern Regional Education Board, https://secure.electroniccampus.org/
  7. Electronic Campus of Virginia, http://www.e-cva.org/
  8. "Economy at a Glance: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV," Bureau of Labor Statistics, July, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.dc_washington_md.htm
  9. Everest College, Chesapeake, http://www.everestonline.edu/
  10. "Help Wanted: Virginia," Center on Education and the Workforce, Georgetown University, 2010, https://georgetown.app.box.com/s/ebiqui38h4jmlv5igrjr
  11. ITT Technical Institute, http://www2.itt-tech.edu/itt-tech/programs/
  12. Liberty University, http://www.liberty.edu/online/
  13. "May 2013 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_47900.htm
  14. "May 2013 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_47260.htm
  15. "May 2013 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_47900.htm
  16. "May 2013 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Richmond, VA," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_40060.htm
  17. Old Dominion University, http://dl.odu.edu/
  18. Regent University, http://www.regent.edu/academics/online_courses/regent_online_overview.cfm
  19. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, 2012, research.schev.edu
  20. "State & County QuickFacts: Richmond city, Virginia," U.S. Census Bureau, 2013, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/51/51760.html
  21. Stratford University, http://www.stratford.edu/content-pages/campuses/online-programs
  22. "Table 1. Civilian labor force and unemployment by state and metropolitan area," Economic News Release, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/metro.t01.htm
  23. The University of Virginia, http://www.scps.virginia.edu/locations/online
  24. The U.S. Department of Education, The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/
  25. "Virginia Beach Area Employment - June 2014," Mid-Atlantic Information Office, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ro3/cesvb.htm
  26. Virginia Commonwealth University, http://online.vcu.edu/
  27. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, http://www.vto.vt.edu/
  28. "Virginia and The Southern Regional Education Board," The Southern Regional Education Board, June, 2014, http://publications.sreb.org/2014/VA_SREB_June2014.pdf

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