The nation's birthplace is home to a wealth of higher education options. This is great for Pennsylvania's prospective online college students, as 63 percent of the jobs in Pennsylvania are expected to require some level of education after high school by 2020, according to a Georgetown University study. This is likely to be true whether you're starting or growing your career in one of Pennsylvania's key industries, such as life sciences or finance, or in a more general-purpose field like healthcare or education.

Students attending online colleges in Pennsylvania can conveniently complete a degree program around a current work schedule or family responsibilities. Here's a brief overview of options:

  • The Keystone State is home to 107 higher education institutions that offer distance learning: 31 of them are public, 76 are private.
  • Out of the private nonprofit schools in Pennsylvania, more than 40 are faith-based colleges or universities.
  • Pennsylvania State University offers the most online degree programs in the state.
  • Among its innovative online programs, the University of Pennsylvania provides students the option to complete MicroMaster's degree programs that provide in-depth learning for specific jobs.

If you've already earned some college credits and you're ready to restart your education, be sure to check out The Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center to learn about your options.

This is just a sampling of what online colleges in Pennsylvania have to offer. There's a lot to know, but fortunately we've done some of the heavy lifting for you. Below, you'll find rankings that compare top online schools in the state, information about financial aid and more.

What Makes a Good Online College in Pennsylvania?

While the rankings on this page approach the question "What are the best online colleges in Pennsylvania?" from various angles, one fact is consistent: every school we display has earned official accreditation from an agency such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education or the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Why does accreditation matter? Learn more on our "What is College Accreditation?" page, or visit the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Accreditation is a crucial part of what makes a good online college, but it's not the only factor. For more details on the data points we chose for our rankings and why they matter, see the "What Makes a Good Online College?" section of our "About Us" page.

Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania for 2019-20

Rankings are a good start, but students deserve more information than just a simple numbered list. Here on OnlineColleges, we also display our data so students can compare qualities of different schools -- such as availability of tuition plans, graduation rate or amount of electronic library collections -- for themselves. 

In addition, use our Top Colleges Tool to apply filters to our database and create your own online college ranking.

1

California University of Pennsylvania

Tuition & Fees
$10,840
Distance Education Participation
70%
Number of Programs Offered
44
School Type
4-year
2

Saint Joseph's University

Tuition & Fees
$43,880
Distance Education Participation
42%
Number of Programs Offered
30
School Type
4-year
3

Clarks Summit University

Tuition & Fees
$23,890
Distance Education Participation
69%
Number of Programs Offered
13
School Type
4-year
4

Carlow University

Tuition & Fees
$28,596
Distance Education Participation
46%
Number of Programs Offered
16
School Type
4-year
5

Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Tuition & Fees
$10,890
Distance Education Participation
49%
Number of Programs Offered
22
School Type
4-year
6

Saint Francis University

Tuition & Fees
$35,066
Distance Education Participation
52%
Number of Programs Offered
6
School Type
4-year
7

Wilkes University

Tuition & Fees
$34,896
Distance Education Participation
60%
Number of Programs Offered
14
School Type
4-year
8

Mansfield University of Pennsylvania

Tuition & Fees
$12,316
Distance Education Participation
46%
Number of Programs Offered
10
School Type
4-year
9

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Tuition & Fees
$10,205
Distance Education Participation
31%
Number of Programs Offered
12
School Type
4-year
10

Robert Morris University

Tuition & Fees
$29,420
Distance Education Participation
31%
Number of Programs Offered
19
School Type
4-year

Affordable Online Colleges in Pennsylvania for 2019-20

The following list names the online colleges in Pennsylvania with the lowest tuition costs. We ranked these schools based on their affordability by comparing the in-state, campus-based tuition they reported to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Financial Aid Resources in Pennsylvania

What Grants and Scholarships are Available in Pennsylvania? 

You can see a list of some of the scholarships and grants offered in Pennsylvania below:

1

C.H. Burgess Scholarship

Type : Scholarship
Award Amount
$1,500
Application Deadline
February 16 (FAFSA deadline); March 1 (nomination form)
Application Deadline
No
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
Yes
Application URL
Criteria:

Applicant must be an incoming freshman student with financial need. Preference given to applicants who reside in Luzerne County.

2

Joseph Mowad Scholarship

Type : Scholarship
Award Amount
$1,690
Application Deadline
February 16 (FAFSA deadline); March 1 (nomination form)
Application Deadline
No
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
Yes
Application URL
Criteria:

Applicant must be a full-time incoming freshman student from Northumberland, Snyder, or Union Counties. Financial need required.

3

Jonathan Lax Scholarship for Gay Men

Type : Scholarship
Award Amount
$20,000
Application Deadline
February 1
Application Deadline
Yes
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
Yes
Application URL
Criteria:

Applicant must be an out gay man who is from the five county Philadelphia region (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties) or Camden County, or who is attending an accredited college, or graduate or professional school anywhere within the Philadelphia region. Purpose of award is to encourage gay men to obtain additional education, aspire to positions in which they contribute to society, be open about their sexual orientation, and act as role models for other gay men with similar potential.

4

Philadelphia Partnership Collaborative Scholarship

Type : Scholarship
Award Amount
$2,000
Application Deadline
None
Application Deadline
Yes
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
Yes
Application URL
Criteria:

Applicant must be nominated by participating Philadelphia high schools. Contact guidance office.

Want to learn more about grant opportunities? Read through the Ultimate Guide to Grants. Curious about scholarships instead? Try our Ultimate Guide to Scholarships.

Student Loans in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) conducts its own loan servicing operations under the name American Education Services (AES). PHEAA created an Account Access website through AES to help students better manage their loans online. Students can also borrow money for college through the federal government; more information on these opportunities is available through the PHEAA site.

For more on loans, go to the Ultimate Guide to Student Loans.

Additional Resources for Financial Aid in Pennsylvania

  • PHEAA provides a list of funding opportunities in Pennsylvania, including information on state grant programs, work-study opportunities and funding for military members.

Costs for Out-of-State Students in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is one of the handful of U.S. states that do not participate in reciprocity programs with other states that grant in-state tuition to students from member states. However, some Pennsylvania universities, such as Penn State, choose to classify active and retired military personnel and their families as in-state residents for tuition purposes.

The University of Pittsburgh offers a variety of scholarships that are also open to out-of-state students to help defray the cost of out-of-state tuition, which in 2018 was $31,102 as opposed to $18,130 for in-state students.

  • One of these awards is the prestigious Chancellor's Scholarship, which is awarded to incoming freshmen admitted to the university's Honors College, called PittHonors.
  • In addition, the University of Pittsburgh participates in the Tuition Exchange program, which grants scholarships to children of faculty and staff at participating member institutions.

Be sure to talk with an admissions counselor about your options when it comes to attending a Pennsylvania university as an out-of-state student.

Best Careers in Pennsylvania

Figuring out what you want to do after college can help you save time and money before you apply. To help you make this decision, let's look at some of the top jobs in Connecticut. Compare data on salary and employment across these careers to see which paths might be good choices for you and your educational goals.

EmploymentEmployment GrowthMedian High School SalaryMedian Bachelor's Salary
6,181,9605.5%$30,808$51,678
Employment in Pennsylvania6,181,960
Employment Growth in Pennsylvania5.5%
Median High School Salary in Pennsylvania$30,808
Median Bachelor's Salary in Pennsylvania$51,678

Top Pennsylvania Industries

*Industry rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data is sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

Top IndustriesEmploymentProjected GrowthAverage Salary
Pipeline transportation1,693,8006%$74,401
Oil and gas extraction2,438,3706%$69,755
Ambulatory healthcare services4,345,0907%$63,934
Hospitals; state, local, and private4,735,8806%$62,667
Monetary authorities-central bank1,254,4506%$77,272
Petroleum and coal products manufacturing2,304,3505%$65,714
Utilities3,130,8105%$64,926
Support activities for mining2,459,2105%$64,106
Chemical manufacturing3,220,1605%$63,375
Waste management and remediation services2,605,4706%$63,175

Those in Pennsylvania who are interested in pursuing oil and gas extraction careers have many solid options to pursue for a career, including companies like PECO Energy Power Company, PPL Electric Utilities Corporation and Exelon Generation Company LLC, which are among the largest energy employers in the state. In fact, the field of oil and gas extraction is so prominent in Pennsylvania that it employs over 72,000 people, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development

Healthcare is another prolific field in Pennsylvania. With facilities like Lancaster General Hospital, Bryn Mawr Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center in operation, nurses, physicians and other related healthcare workers have many worthwhile facilities where they may want to seek employment.

In the coming years, jobs related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics are expected to increase. In fact, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development predicts that there will be 600,000 available jobs in the STEM sector by 2026. In order to meet the demand for STEM workers, the state is implementing the PAsmart initiative, which provides grants to fund STEM-related education on the K-12 level, as well as apprenticeships, career and technical education programs, and on-the-job training.

There are many industries offering opportunities for workers in Pennsylvania. Let's discuss the different thriving industries in specific metropolitan areas of the state.

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metro Area

Total Population
6,065,644
Median salary for high school grads
$32,275
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
$57,950
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
29%
Median rent
$1,075

With Pennsylvania preparing for an influx of STEM positions, workers in the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington area need to be sure they have the skills required for these jobs. And where can they learn these skills but at college? As a result, health specialties and engineering professors have much to do at colleges like the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and Temple University. Furthermore, Philadelphia's top industries are stated to include life sciences, information technology and financial services, all of which can offer a number of job options for statisticians.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Statisticiansmaster's degree$93,5302,600
Medical Scientists, Except EpidemiologistsDoctoral or professional degree$117,9107,040
Health Specialties Teachers, PostsecondaryDoctoral or professional degree$102,2807,060
Aerospace EngineersBachelor's degree$115,6303,200
Engineering Teachers, PostsecondaryDoctoral or professional degree$118,4701,580

*Career rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

Pittsburgh, PA Metro Area

Total Population
2,348,143
Median salary for high school grads
$30,041
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
$51,334
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
29%
Median rent
$776

According to VisitPITTSBURGH, the city has about 133,000 workers in its healthcare industry who are employed at organizations like Allegheny Health Network, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. This thriving healthcare sector makes Pittsburgh a great place for physical therapists and physician assistants to find employment.

In addition, since 2007, there have been over 300 technology companies that have either relocated to Pittsburgh or expanded their operations in the city. As a result, computer systems analysts have a great chance of getting employment at companies such as IBM, Uber, Google and Apple.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Physician AssistantsMaster's degree$91,6901,390
Software Developers, ApplicationsBachelor's degree$89,1408,620
Physical TherapistsDoctoral or professional degree$80,7802,750
Mechanical EngineersBachelor's degree$90,9103,760
Computer Systems AnalystsBachelor's degree$92,6706,890

*Career rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ Metro Area

Total Population
832,790
Median salary for high school grads
$31,992
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
$54,131
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
26.4%
Median rent
$990

Physician assistants and nurse anesthetists may be able to find employment at the numerous healthcare facilities in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton area, such as ManorCare Health Services and St. Luke's University Health Network. For those who are looking for mechanical and computer hardware engineering jobs, companies like Liberty Engineering, Pulse Technologies, and Lutron Electronics are prominent employers in the region.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Physician AssistantsMaster's degree$90,690620
Nurse AnesthetistsMaster's degree$151,410N/A
Engineering Teachers, PostsecondaryDoctoral or professional degreeN/A190
Mechanical EngineersBachelor's degree$77,9501,410
Mechanical EngineersBachelor's degree$77,9501,410

*Career rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

Sources
Methodology

Using the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following criteria:

  • Level of institution is either "Four or more years" or "At least 2 but less than 4 years"
  • Data is reported for all 11 ranking variables listed in the Methodology section
  • At least 1 percent of students are taking at least some of the classes via distance education
  • "Number of programs offered via distance education" was an integer greater than 0

We ranked the resulting 1,813 colleges on 11 criteria, using provisional 2017-18 data from IPEDS:

  1. Number of programs offered via distance education
  2. Ratio of students participating fully or partially in DE to Total Enrollment
  3. Average in-state tuition for undergraduates
  4. Total electronic library collections, including digital books, databases, and media
  5. Graduation rate
  6. Retention rate
  7. The availability of any tuition plans (Payment, Guaranteed, Other)
  8. Services (Academic/Career, Placement for Completers)
  9. Credit offerings (Dual, Life, AP, Military)
  10. Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
  11. Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students

All schools were scored on a 10-point scale for each of the points listed above. Individual data point scores were then multiplied by their respective weights, and the scores were added together, for a maximum possible score of 10 points.

NOTE: Schools' tuition amounts are based on 2017-18 undergraduate and graduate data reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.

Methodology Sources

  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
X