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Online Colleges in Virginia

Most Affordable Online Colleges
   Page Contents

Virginia is home to dozens of well-known colleges and universities. However, it is the state's ongoing commitment to expanding educational access -- especially through technology -- that really keeps it on the cutting edge.

Virginia was among the first states to embrace online education, which gives many people the opportunity to change careers, finish a degree or enter school while still working or serving in the military. An example of Virginia's commitment to helping such nontraditional students is the state's contribution to the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). SREB is a nonprofit organization comprised of governors, legislators and educators dedicated to helping students in the region find quality education options -- even when their jobs, families and other commitments make it difficult for them to attend on-campus classes.

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. This represents just a sampling of online programs available in the state.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that as of 2014, 20.7 percent of Virginians older than 25 had a bachelor's degree and that 15 percent had a graduate or professional degree. However, the demand for college-educated workers is much higher. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2018 64 percent of Virginia jobs will require postsecondary education. With that kind of demand, the Commonwealth is trying to boost higher education within its borders. One way to accomplish that is by fostering online degree options.

The following chart lists the number of institutions where students can earn an associate, bachelor's or master's degree as well as how many online degree programs these schools offer.

Degree LevelNumber of Online ProgramsNumber of Colleges
Associate10125
Bachelor's7325
Master's5825

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of May 2015, an estimated 3.7 million Virginia workers earned a mean annual wage of $51,670. 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.

Most Affordable Online Colleges in Virginia

The following list ranks the five most affordable two- and four-year schools in Virginia. Tuition figures are reported by the schools to the National Center for Education Statistics and reflect in-state tuition. In the case of a tie, the schools’ overall score from the Top Colleges tool was used as a tiebreaker.

For students interested in other measures of quality aside from affordability, the Top Colleges tool provides a ranking of Virginia schools based on quality.

Most Affordable Two-Year Online Colleges in Virginia

Two-year schools are especially suited for those who are seeking to earn an associate degree or who want to spend their first couple years at a smaller school before enrolling at a university to earn a bachelor's degree. The following five schools offer the most affordable tuition in Virginia.

1

Southwest Virginia Community College

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$3,060
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
60.72%
Institution Type
Public

About

In February 2016, Southwest Virginia was named one of the top 25 community colleges in the U.S. for online classes. It offers nearly two dozen online degree programs that require little or no travel to the school's campus, located near Richlands and Cedar Bluff, Virginia.

Its online program offerings range from administration of justice and administrative support technology to psychology and teacher preparation. In addition to certificate programs, it offers two types of associate degree programs: an Associate of Arts & Sciences and an Associate of Applied Science. Southwest Virginia is part of a statewide system of community colleges formed in 1966. The school also offers tuition and fee waivers for students who are 60 year or older, allowing them to sign up for classes that are not completely full of tuition-paying students.

School Website: 
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2

New River Community College

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$3,060
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
52%
Institution Type
Public

About

New River Community College offers a broad assortment of online classes. The school also offers 10 degree programs that can be earned entirely through online courses. These associate degree programs include business administration, science, accounting and general studies. Associate of Applied Science students can specialize in such fields as marketing management, medical administrative support and paralegal administrative support.

The school provides technical support and academic guidance to all distance learning students. New River Community College also provides ongoing support to faculty who are interested in developing new or existing online classes. In addition, many classes are taught using interactive television, which requires students to travel to special Interactive television rooms to take classes from professors in other locations.

School Website: 
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3

Mountain Empire Community College

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$3,060
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
47.39%
Institution Type
Public

About

Through its distance learning program, Mountain Empire Community College offers a variety of online classes that use Blackboard. The school also offers courses through the Northern Virginia Community College's Extending Learning Institute. The online courses earn credit toward an Associate of Arts & Sciences, Associate of Applied Science and various certificate programs.

The number and type of courses varies from semester to semester, but the school focuses on academic areas such as business administration, general studies, sciences, nursing and a variety of technology fields. There are also classes in welding, respiratory therapy, police science and other fields.

School Website: 
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4

Rappahannock Community College

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$3,060
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
42.73%
Institution Type
Public

About

Rappahannock Community College offers many online courses, as well as hybrid courses and interactive video courses. The school offers two completely online degree programs: an Associate of Arts and Sciences and an Associate of Applied Science in Business Management. The school also offers four Associate Arts and Sciences Transfer degree programs in arts and science, business administration, psychology and teacher education.

In addition, students studying online can earn certificates in accounting, administrative support technology and general education. The school also offers "success labs" on campus that are designed to help online students get extra help. The school uses Blackboard Collaborate and Virtual Chat to help students communicate better with their instructors.

School Website: 
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5

Dabney S. Lancaster Community College

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$3,060
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
30.71%
Institution Type
Public

About

Dabney S. Lancaster, along with some other community colleges in Virginia, offers a selection of online classes that start monthly and continue in a six-week format. Dabney S. Lancaster Community College is one of 23 community colleges in Virginia. The school is supported by funding from the state, four counties and four towns, including the two-year school's home base of Clifton Forge, Virginia.

Courses are offered in accounting and finance, computer applications, business, design and composition, healthcare and medicine, language and arts, law and legal issues, teaching, technology, and writing and publishing.

School Website: 
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Most Affordable Four-Year Online Colleges in Virginia

An increasing number of four-year schools in Virginia are offering online degree programs and online classes. Students can earn their bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees completely through online programs at some colleges. Additional online classes and degree programs are being added each year. The following are the top-ranked most affordable four-year schools.

1

Sentara College of Health Sciences

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$392
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
96.73%
Institution Type
Private

About

As part of a national effort to increase the number of nurses with a bachelor's degree by 80 percent over the next few years, Sentara College of Health Sciences now offers an entirely online program for licensed registered nurses who want to obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.

The program is offered twice a year -- in January and August -- and is designed to accommodate RNs who need to balance school with work. Students can take classes on a full-time or part-time basis, and the school prides itself on giving students experience working in advanced technological settings in small clinical groups.

School Website: 
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2

Norfolk State University

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$4,536
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
44.38%
Institution Type
Public

About

Norfolk State is continually updating and adding online courses and programs. Courses follow the same term schedule as face-to-face classes, and the online programs require the same level of student activity as the on-campus courses. The school’s undergraduate programs include online Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree programs in areas ranging from history and psychology to health services.

The university’s online master's programs are offered in various fields of education, as well as in cybersecurity. Many online students at Norfolk are not working toward a specific degree, however. Many are taking targeted courses they hope will fit their lifestyle and help improve workplace skills.

School Website: 
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3

Virginia Baptist College

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$4,800
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
73.4%
Institution Type
Private

About

This small, religious school in Fredericksburg was founded in 1984 by three area pastors, and in the last 30-plus years has expanded enrollment, class offerings and campus offices, increasing the number of the students who can still work on their degree even though they are unable to travel to campus.

Virginia Baptist offers two associate, two bachelor's and three master's programs entirely online. The school’s associate programs are offered online in ministry and Christian education. Bachelor’s degree programs are offered online in those fields as well. Master's degree programs are offered in ministry, biblical studies and Christian education.

School Website: 
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4

The University of Virginia's College at Wise

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$4,862
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
46.95%
Institution Type
Public

About

This liberal arts college is part of the University of Virginia system and is located in Wise, Virginia. The school offers more than 30 different majors, and many of the courses are offered online as a way to help "get your degree work off the ground," the school says.

Each semester the university offers dozens of online classes in such diverse fields as forensic psychology and sociology to various business-related courses. The faculty uses the Moodle system to deliver online classes. The school provides a convenient online database that helps students find and sign up for their online classes at the school.

School Website: 
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5

Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$4,871
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
23.52%
Institution Type
Private

About

In addition to its traditional Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, Bon Secours in Richmond also offers an online program for registered nurses seeking to complete the BSN degree.

The school says that graduates of this program are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), and its nursing school is ranked No. 1 in the national by NCLEX-RN. Bon Secours, in operation since 1961, prides itself on keeping its class sizes small and its Clinical Simulation Center stocked with the latest technology.

School Website: 
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College Accreditation in Virginia

Choosing a properly accredited online college in Virginia is as important a decision as choosing the correct major and minor to study. Accreditation means that educational programs adhere to widely accepted quality standards, and students' degree are valid.

There are several nationally recognized accrediting bodies for colleges, universities, community colleges and technical schools in Virginia, including the following:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)

Prior to enrolling in an online college in Virginia, students should check with the Department of Education to see how their prospective institution is accredited.

School Interviews

The online degree programs and courses being offered by many schools are always changing and expanding. To help us understand how schools approach teaching students through distance education, we interviewed an expert in the field.

 Kristin Palmer
I anticipate more online learning options from universities and companies … I anticipate more content will be developed and more options will be available …

Kristin Palmer

Director of Online Learning Programs

University of Virginia

Q. Can you tell us a little about the online programs offered at the University of Virginia?

UVa offers a range of online courses, online certificate programs and online degree (undergraduate and graduate) programs. Most courses are for college credit and are based on tuition rates. Online degree programs are offered in Engineering, Nursing, Arts & Sciences, Education, and Continuing and Professional Studies. There are 14 certificate granting programs in Education, Commerce, Nursing, Engineering and Education. There are seven mixed online and offline degree-granting programs in Engineering, Education, Commerce and Business. There are also free online courses offered on Coursera and iTunes U. These free courses do not provide credit.

Q. What advice would you give to students interested in an online degree program?

If you are interested in taking an online degree program, I would recommend first taking a free online course through Coursera or iTunes U. These courses are known as massive open online courses, or MOOCs. MOOCs range in rigor but they can provide insight for the learner on the experience of taking an online course. MOOCs include various technologies such as discussion forums, video lectures and online assessments. MOOCs are a no-cost, no-risk option for seeing if the learner can be self-directed, satisfied, and successful with the format of online learning.

Q. How do you anticipate online learning might evolve in the coming years?

I anticipate more online learning options from universities and companies. Increasingly, residential undergraduate students are coming to campus having already taken online courses and equipped with smart devices such as smart phones, tablets and laptops. More content is being provided online in smaller segments. We are increasingly seeing the unbundling of content into smaller discreet segments that can be grouped together to cover a larger topic. I anticipate more content will be developed and more options will be available to the learner to group this content to create specializations and certificates. I also assume more online content will be available for just-in-time training.

Top Cities For Students In Virginia

Regardless of what field you earn your online degree in, before starting your career, it pays to learn where your degree is most valued. In most cities, a bachelor's or master's degree means a higher salary, but that advantage can be undercut if the cost of living is high or the number of college-educated residents in a certain area is also high. To help you decide where to live, we've compiled the following snapshots of the key metro areas of Virginia.

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

Total Population

4,619,268

Median salary for high school grads

$30,644

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$61,971

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

11.2%

Median rent

$1,211

Economics

The BLS reports that as of May 2015, the Washington D.C. metropolitan area supported more than 2.4 million workers. Its largest industries, by employment, include the following:

  • Professional and business services
  • Government
  • Trade, transportation and utilities

Wages across the D.C. metro area tend to be well above the national average. The BLS reports that workers in the metro area earned a mean annual wage of $80,150 in May 2015. The Cost of Living Index is 139.6 with housing values averaging $788,478 in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Demographics

The Washington D.C. metropolitan area was the seventh largest metropolitan area in the country by population in 2014. Residents are attracted to the area by government and business jobs, as well as cultural highlights and several well-known colleges and universities.

Fun Facts

Arlington and Alexandria border the nation's capital, as well as 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 housing costs, then commute by mass transit to D.C. 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.

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC

Total Population

1,697,898

Median salary for high school grads

$29,101

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$48,507

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

11.9%

Median rent

$893

Economics

The Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metropolitan area, sometimes referred to as the Hampton Roads region, has a rich military tradition. That tradition plays a role in the area's economic development. The BLS's Mid-Atlantic Information Office reported that as of April 2016, the region supported nearly 826,737 workers. This is about 22 percent of the state's workforce. The following are the area’s largest industries by employment:

  • Government
  • Trade, transportation and utilities
  • Education and health services

The BLS reports that workers in the Virginia Beach metropolitan area earned an annual mean wage of $45,460 in 2015. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average value of a house in this area was $257,919 in 2014.The Cost of Living Index is 100.5.

Demographics

The Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News area's military installations, including major Air Force and Navy bases, shapes the region's population as much as its economy. Its position along the Chesapeake Bay made Hampton Roads not just a center for shipyards and trade, but also research.

Fun Facts

First colonized in the early 1600s, the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metro area has a long history. It played a key role in a number of major historical events, including 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, VA

Total Population

1,234,058

Median salary for high school grads

$30,651

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$51,398

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

9.7%

Median rent

$817

Economics

Richmond is not Virginia's largest metropolitan region by population. However, as the state's capital, it is one of the most economically significant cities in the state. The BLS reports that as of May 2015, the Richmond metropolitan area's total employed labor force exceeded 617,700 workers. State government is one of the area's largest employers. The largest industries, by employment, include the following:

  • Trade, transportation and utilities
  • Government
  • Business and professional services

The BLS reports that as of May 2015, Richmond workers earned a mean annual wage of $47,880. The Cost of Living Index is 100.6. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2014 that the average value of a house in the area was $253,000.

Demographics

The BLS reports that as of May 2015, the Richmond metropolitan area workforce of 617,700 workers represented 17 percent of Virginia's entire workforce of 3.6 million. Government careers and related jobs attracts employees of all stripes. The area also supports a handful of colleges and other cultural institutions.

Fun Facts

According to the website Visit Richmond, Richmond is home to six Fortune 500 companies, more than any other city in Virginia. Residents and visitors can take advantage of the area's numerous sporting events, which include two major NASCAR races a year. Other key cultural attractions are the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Kings Dominion, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and numerous Civil War sites. The Atlantic Ocean, the Blue Ridge Mountains and Washington D.C. are all within a quick two-hour drive of the city.

 

Sources

  1. 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
  2. American National University, https://www.an.edu/online/
  1. Argosy University, https://www.argosy.edu/locations/washington-dc/
  2. Averett University, http://gps.averett.edu/online-offerings/
  3. Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program Overview, Sentara College of Health Sciences, http://www.sentara.edu/academics/bachelor-science-nursing-program/rn-bsn-licensed-rns
  4. Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing, http://www.bsmcon.edu/rn-bsn
  5. C2ER, The Cost of Living Index, http://www.coli.org/
  6. CollegeNavigator, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
  7. Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, http://www.ed2go.com/dslcc/
  8. Distance Education, New River Community College, http://www.nr.edu/de/degrees.php
  9. Distance Learning, Rappahannock Community College, https://www.rappahannock.edu/academics/distance-learning
  10. Distance Learning/Online, Mountain Empire Community College, http://www.mecc.edu/distance-learning/
  11. Eastern Shore Community College, http://es.vccs.edu/academics/programs-and-courses/distance-learning/
  12. Economy at a Glance: Richmond, VA, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.va_richmond_msa.htm
  13. Economy at a Glance: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.dc_washington_md.htm
  14. ECPI University, http://www.ecpi.edu/online
  15. Electronic Campus of Virginia, http://www.e-cva.org/
  16. Electronic Campus, Southern Regional Education Board, https://secure.electroniccampus.org/
  17. Everest College, http://www.everestonline.edu/
  18. Fortis College-Richmond, http://www.fortis.edu/campuses/virginia/richmond/2000-westmoreland-street-suite-a-richmond-va.aspx
  19. Help Wanted: Virginia, Center on Education and the Workforce, Georgetown University, 2010, https://georgetown.app.box.com/s/ebiqui38h4jmlv5igrjr
  20. ITT Technical Institute, http://www2.itt-tech.edu/itt-tech/programs/
  21. John Tyler Community College, http://jtcc.edu/academics/academic-programs/
  22. Kristin Palmer, interview with the author, March 2015
  23. Liberty University, http://www.liberty.edu/online/
  24. Lord Fairfax Community College, https://www.lfcc.edu/lfcc-online/
  25. May 2015 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_47900.htm
  26. May 2015 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_47260.htm
  27. May 2015 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_47900.htm
  28. May 2015 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Richmond, VA," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_40060.htm
  29. Old Dominion University, http://dl.odu.edu/
  30. Online Degree Programs, Virginia Baptist College, http://www.vbc.edu/degree-programs
  31. Online Programs, Norfolk State University, https://www.nsu.edu/sel/nsuonline/online-programs#UndergraduatePrograms
  32. Piedmont Virginia Community College, http://www.pvcc.edu/academics/instructional-divisions/workforce-
  33. Programs at Southwest Virginia Community College, Southwest Virginia Community College, http://sw.edu/catalogs/programs-of-study/
  34. Regent University, http://www.regent.edu/academics/online_courses/regent_online_overview.cfm
  35. State & County QuickFacts: Richmond city, Virginia, U.S. Census Bureau, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/51/51760.html
  36. Stratford University, http://www.stratford.edu/content-pages/campuses/online-programs
  37. Table 1. Civilian labor force and unemployment by state and metropolitan area, Economic News Release, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/metro.t01.htm
  38. The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, The U.S. Department of Education, http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/
  39. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, 2012, research.schev.edu
  40. The University of Virginia, http://www.scps.virginia.edu/locations/online
  41. Virginia and The Southern Regional Education Board, The Southern Regional Education Board, July 2014, http://publications.sreb.org/2014/VA_SREB_June2014.pdf
  42. Virginia Beach Area Employment - June 2016, Mid-Atlantic Information Office, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/ro3/cesvb.htm
  43. Virginia Commonwealth University, http://online.vcu.edu/
  44. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, http://www.vto.vt.edu/
  45. Web Based Courses + Programs, Rappahannock Community College, https://www.rappahannock.edu/academics/distance-learning/web-based-programs
  46. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, http://www.sacscoc.org/
  47. Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, http://www.acics.org/