Here's an overview of online colleges in Washington:
  • 27 online colleges in Washington offer associate degree programs, 26 feature bachelor's degree programs and 15 have master's degree programs.
  • The colleges with the most online degree programs in the state include North Seattle College, South Seattle College, Washington State University, and City University of Seattle.
  • Both state university systems — University of Washington and Washington State University — offer online degree programs.

One way the state aims to support student success is through the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges' eLearning and Open Education program, which provides online tools so that Washington students can easily access learning programs anywhere and anytime.

Continue reading to learn about the 10 best online colleges in Washington and the most affordable ones. You can also find information about Washington-specific scholarships, grants and loans.

What Makes a Good Online College in Washington?

Here at OnlineColleges.com, we use carefully selected criteria to develop our rankings on the best online schools in Washington. The schools included in our rankings are all accredited by a body such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) or the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) — official accrediting agencies that operate in Washington. Information on the importance of accreditation can be found on our "What is College Accreditation?" page, and accreditation specific to Washington is available through the Washington State Board of Education.

Why do we make multiple rankings instead of just one? Our rankings are designed to help different people who are looking for different things. Each ranking reveals a number of factors of each school, such as average in-state tuition, graduation rate or the average amount of financial aid awarded. To learn why these factors might be what you're looking for in an online degree program in Washington, check out our "What Makes a Good Online College?" section on our "About Us" page.

Best Online Colleges in Washington for 2019-20

The enormous number of quality online offerings in Washington is clearly a blessing to the online student, but it can also be overwhelming when deciding where to enroll. To help students find the online college that's right for them, we've created a list of the 10 best online colleges in Washington, using data gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). For a closer look at how we arrived at this list, see our methodology at the bottom of this page).

1

Washington State University

Tuition & Fees
$11,391
Distance Education Participation
19%
Number of Programs Offered
39
School Type
4-year

What is WSU like?

Washington State University was founded in 1890 at Pullman as the state's land-grant university. This research university has since expanded its geographical footprint throughout the Pacific Northwest by adding campus locations at Everett, Spokane, the Tri-Cities area of Kennewick, Pasco and Richland, and Vancouver, B.C.

What online programs are at WSU?

WSU's Global Campus offers online bachelor's degree programs in subject areas including business administration, human development, criminal justice and economics. Graduate students, meanwhile, can pursue online master's degree programs in agriculture, health communication and promotion, and molecular biosciences, among others.

Degree programs offered through WSU's Global Campus are delivered in a variety of formats, including fully online or blended/ hybrid options where students are required to attend class on campus at regularly scheduled times.

What online resources does WSU offer?

Distance learners pursuing online bachelor's degrees or online master's degrees at WSU are paired with academic advisors to help them consistently meet their academic goals. Other resources include 24-hour technical support, online tutoring and writing assistance, and a support staff dedicated to helping distance learners.

2

Central Washington University

Tuition & Fees
$7,903
Distance Education Participation
37%
Number of Programs Offered
21
School Type
4-year

What is CWU like?

This public four-year university was founded in 1891 as a teachers' college. The university is headquartered at Ellensburg but has eight university center locations across the state. CWU also is co-located with many Washington community colleges, allowing students to complete four-year degrees at those institutions without leaving their home communities.

What online programs are at CWU?

CWU launched its online campus, Finish Line, in 2011 to serve distance learners. Fully online undergraduate degree programs include creative writing, public health, business administration and aviation management. Online master's degree programs include study in school administration, health and physical education and athletic administration.

What online resources does CWU offer?

CWU offers an online student resource center to support distance learners. Student services include general and academic advising, online tutoring in a wide variety of subjects, technical help, and career services for both students and alumni. Furthermore, with the college's tuition waiver program, out-of-state students pay the same tuition rate as in-state students.

3

Gonzaga University

Tuition & Fees
$41,330
Distance Education Participation
18%
Number of Programs Offered
7
School Type
4-year

What is Gonzaga like?

While this small Roman-Catholic university has garnered much attention for its nationally ranked basketball program (it played in the NCAA championship game in 2017), Gonzaga has also earned praise as one of the best colleges in Washington. Notable alumni from this private liberal-arts college include Bing Crosby, Sen. Catherine Cortez-Mastro and NBA legend John Stockton.

Gonzaga has offered online degree programs since 2004.

What online programs are at Gonzaga?

Gonzaga offers a limited number of online master's degree programs in subjects such as communication and leadership studies, sport and athletic administration, theology and educational leadership. The university also offers many advanced degree pathways in nursing.

What online resources does Gonzaga offer?

Students who pursue online degrees at this respectable Jesuit institution can receive a wide range of support, including a dedicated online team to assist with aspects of registration, financial aid and technical help. Additional support for distance learners includes campus ministry, career and professional development services, and an online librarian at the Foley Library.

4

Eastern Washington University

Tuition & Fees
$7,109
Distance Education Participation
24%
Number of Programs Offered
6
School Type
4-year

What is EWU like?

Eastern Washington University's flagship campus at Spokane was founded in 1882. The university added a second campus location at Cheney, and it offers bachelor's degree programs at university centers throughout the Inland Northwest region of Washington.

What online programs are at EWU?

Eastern Online is EWU's portal for distance education. The academic level of the university's online programs ranges from diplomas and certificates to master's degrees. Undergraduate students can choose from degree-completion programs in addiction studies, children's studies, dental hygiene, health sciences and more. Grad students, meanwhile, can pursue online master's degrees in areas such as education, addiction studies, dental hygiene and public health.

What online resources does EWU offer?

EWU supports distance learners through its student IT services and help desk, access to the EWU library, online writing center, e-tutoring and test proctoring. Students also can join peer-based collaborative study groups and receive academic coaching.

5

Charter College

Tuition & Fees
$21,908
Distance Education Participation
93%
Number of Programs Offered
19
School Type
4-year

What is Charter College like?

Charter College is a private independent institution that focuses on career training programs in a variety of fields, including healthcare, business, information technology and certain building trades. Since its opening in 1985, Charter has expanded its geographical footprint with numerous campus locations in Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico and Washington, and has added numerous online degree programs as well.

What online programs are at Charter College?

Charter College Online focuses on blended learning where students can combine online study with hands-on classroom instruction. The school uses the Canvas content management system for its online course delivery.

Students can pursue online associate degree programs in business administration, allied health, computer networking systems, and online bachelor's degree programs in business administration and healthcare administration. There are also blended programs in medical, dental and veterinary assisting, pharmacy technician, welding and HVAC.

What online resources does Charter College offer?

Charter College students can receive 24-hour online course support, job search assistance, student success coaching, access to the college's virtual library, IT support and academic advising.

6

Shoreline Community College

Tuition & Fees
$3,802
Distance Education Participation
37%
Number of Programs Offered
16
School Type
2-year

What is Shoreline like?

Located 10 miles north of downtown Seattle, Shoreline Community College boasts one of the most scenic campuses in the entire Pacific Northwest. Shoreline was founded in 1964 and offers a variety of technical and academic degree programs. A notable historic fact: the college is located on grounds where the Duwamish Tribe traditionally gathered its foods.

What online programs are at Shoreline?

Shoreline Community College offers online associate degree and certificate programs through the Shoreline Virtual Campus, which uses Canvas for online course delivery. The college's online associate degree programs cover seven areas of study, including business, criminal justice, early childhood education, accounting and supply chain management.

Shoreline also features an Associate in Arts-Direct Transfer Agreement degree program (AA-DTA) for students interested in continuing their education at a four-year college. This program satisfies lower-division requirements and allows students to transfer as juniors to most four-year colleges in Washington.

What online resources does Shoreline offer?

Shoreline students can find an abundance of support that can help them to complete their academic journey. This includes academic advising, online tutoring in a wide range of subjects, success coaching and degree planning.

7

Heritage University

Tuition & Fees
$17,914
Distance Education Participation
6%
Number of Programs Offered
5
School Type
4-year

What is Heritage like?

Located on a 48-acre campus in Toppenish in Central Washington, Heritage University is the only university in the state of Washington to be designated a Hispanic Serving Institution. Approximately 70 percent of the student population is Hispanic or Latino. Heritage students also can take classes at Columbia Basin College in the Tri-Cities area or online.

What online programs are at Heritage?

The online bachelor's in English program at Heritage requires 120 credits to complete, including 48-upper division credits and 42-54 credits in the program major. The college also offers an online master's in English program that requires 32 credits to complete, and an online Master's in Education for graduate students seeking to work in K-12 administrative leadership positions. This program also requires 32 credits to complete.

Online courses at Heritage are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to study at the time most convenient to them.

What online resources does Heritage offer?

Support services for distance learners includes academic advising, career services, access to the Donald North Library, and tutoring through the Smarthinking online tutoring center.

8

Western Washington University

Tuition & Fees
$8,183
Distance Education Participation
6%
Number of Programs Offered
2
School Type
4-year

What is WWU like?

Located in scenic Bellingham, WWU is the northernmost university in the contiguous United States. The university was founded in the late 1880s as a teacher's school. The institution has partnership locations with postsecondary institutions throughout the Puget Sound and Central Salish Sea regions.

What online programs are at WWU?

Western Online offers a wide range of online courses, as well as an online bachelor's in human services program for undergraduate students who aspire to work as case managers, youth workers, advocacy specialists or similar fields. WWU also offers a flexible B.A. in multidisciplinary studies program for students who reside on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas.

The university delivers online coursework through the Canvas content management system. Classes are either term-based, in which case they follow the same semester schedule as on-campus courses, or they are self-paced and can be completed at any time.

What online resources does WWU offer?

Western's online students can receive support services such as access to the Hacherl Research and Writing Studio, career counseling, academic advising, Canvas support and access to the WWU Bookstore.

9

Everett Community College

Tuition & Fees
$3,715
Distance Education Participation
33%
Number of Programs Offered
2
School Type
2-year

What is EvCC like?

Founded in 1941 in a converted elementary school, Everett Community College moved to its main 46-acre campus in Everett in 1958. The college has expanded its footprint to include additional campus locations throughout Snohomish County.

What online programs are at EvCC?

EvCC only offers two online associate degree programs — an A.A. direct transfer degree and an Associate in General Studies where students choose a variety of courses that suit their interests. The transfer degree program is designed to satisfy core requirements for a four-year degree and is accepted by many postsecondary institutions in Washington and Oregon.

However, EvCC also offers an online medical transcription and editing certificate program and a medical coding certificate program.

What online resources does EvCC offer?

EvCC's eLearning Department features support for the Canvas content management system and other digital technologies used by students and staff. Additional support services include tutoring through the Rainier Learning Center, academic and student success counseling, and academic advising.

10

Walla Walla Community College

Tuition & Fees
$4,455
Distance Education Participation
25%
Number of Programs Offered
3
School Type
2-year

What is WWCC like?

Walla Walla Community College's flagship campus, founded in 1967, sits on 130 acres in Walla Walla and offers expansive views of the scenic Blue Mountains. The college has a second campus location at Clarkston that serves residents of Asotin and Garfield counties.

What online programs are at WWCC?

WWCC offers an online A.A. degree program for transfer students who want to complete their education at a four-year college. Some public colleges in the state give priority status to student who've completed requirements for this program. Students who are specifically interested in transferring to a four-year business school may consider the online associate in business program.

Alternately, online students may want to pursue WWCC's online associate degree programs in turf management or human and social services.

What online resources does WWCC offer?

Distance learners receive the same support as their on-campus peers at WWCC. Services include degree and career planning and academic advising through the Advising and Counseling Center, dedicated degree-completion coaches, online tutoring and writing help, and IT support.

Affordable Online Colleges in Washington for 2019-20

The following list features a few of the two-year and four-year schools in Washington that offer online degree programs at the lowest tuition costs.

Financial Aid Resources in Washington

1

State Need Grant

Type : Scholarship
Award Amount
$10,868
Application Deadline
None
Application Deadline
No
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
No
Application URL
Criteria:

Applicant must be a Washington state resident who has a family income of equal or less than 70% of the state median (see Family Income Chart on sponsor's site). Applicant must be pursuing a first bachelor's degree, certificate, or associate's degree, enrolled with a minimum of three credits. FAFSA is required.

2

Washington State Need Grant

Type : Scholarship
Award Amount
$8,214
Application Deadline
None
Application Deadline
Yes
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
Yes
Application URL
Criteria:

Applicant must be a Washington State resident for one year prior to application. Selection based on financial need

3

Washington State PTA Financial Grant Program

Type : Scholarship
Award Amount
$2,000
Application Deadline
March 31
Application Deadline
No
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
No
Application URL
Criteria:

Applicant must be a graduate of a Washington state public high school. Selection based on academic performance, community involvement, and financial need.

4

George T. Welch Scholarship

Type : Scholarship
Award Amount
$4,000
Application Deadline
April 1
Application Deadline
Yes
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
No
Application URL
Criteria:

Applicant must be a graduate of a Walla Walla County, WA, high school and demonstrate financial need.

Student Loans in Washington

The state of Washington prefers to focus their efforts on State Need Grants through the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) as opposed to offering state-based student loans. Students are strongly encouraged to seek scholarship, grant and work-study opportunities, since those forms of aid do not need to be paid back. However, if you've exhausted those options and are still in need of financial assistance, you can apply for federal or private loans to help defray your tuition costs. To qualify for federal loans, you will need to fill out the FAFSA with details about your family's financial situation.

Find out more about student loans in our Ultimate Guide to Student Loans.

Additional Resources for Financial Aid in Washington

  • Financial Aid Overview details all of Washington state's student financial aid programs (collectively known as Washington Opportunity Pathways), including scholarships, grants, work-study and more.

Costs for Out-of-State Students in Washington

Out-of-state tuition and fees expenses in Washington can cost more than twice as much as they do for residents, which might be an obstacle for non-resident students. Fortunately, there are a few ways to bring more affordability to your attendance cost.

  • Online degrees. Some institutions in the Evergreen State provide tuition breaks for out-of-state students who take advantage of their online offerings. Central Washington University, for example, waives the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for undergraduate students enrolled in online degree programs.
  • Non-resident student scholarships. Many schools have financial aid programs in place specifically for out-of-state students, including Washington State University, the University of Washington and Western Washington University.

Regional student exchange programs are another possible avenue for reducing the cost of out-of-state tuition. The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) initiative allows students from the following states to save around $9,000 per year on non-resident tuition:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

Other options may exist as well, depending on your destination institution or your specific academic circumstances. Check in with advisers or registrars at a Washington school to learn more.

Best Careers In Washington

Choosing a college major is easier to do if you know what career you want to pursue after college. To help students make that decision, we've analyzed the best jobs to have in Washington and displayed them below, with accompanying data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Comparing factors such as average salary, minimum education and projected job growth may help you make a decision about what kind of career path you might want to follow.

EmploymentEmployment GrowthMedian High School SalaryMedian Bachelor's Salary
3,684,31017%$32,246$57,143
Employment in Washington3,684,310
Employment Growth in Washington17%
Median High School Salary in Washington$32,246
Median Bachelor's Salary in Washington$57,143

Top Washington Industries

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

Top IndustriesEmploymentProjected GrowthAverage Salary
Ambulatory healthcare services2,348,00017%$70,442
Hospitals; state, local, and private2,553,51017%$69,022
Insurance carriers and related activities1,890,03016%$70,080
Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities1,268,72017%$73,682
Utilities1,777,64014%$72,088
Credit intermediation and related activities1,529,22017%$70,455
Educational services; state, local, and private2,869,94016%$66,745
Telecommunications1,483,07017%$76,075
Data processing, hosting, and related services1,294,61017%$76,873
Broadcasting (except Internet)1,181,30017%$75,403

Washington is a state bubbling with economic growth and business opportunities. On the one hand, the state is the birthplace of tech goliaths such as Amazon, Expedia and Zillow, creating a footprint that has impacted the entire nation. On the other hand, Washington's small businesses employed 51.5 percent of the private workforce in 2015, making an enormous impression on the state's job market one success at a time.

Businesses need a lot of help to get started and to continue operating, and Washington has created an ideal environment for entrepreneurs to thrive. Budding businesses need support services such as insurance, investments, credit, telecommunications and data processing, all of which are hot jobs in Washington. As Washington's start-ups survive and grow, they create more demand in these industries, which in turn helps new businesses to start up, creating a positive feedback loop. The system seems to be working: according to Kauffman.org, 80.89 percent of Washington's startups are still active after one year, which is one of the highest survival rates in the U.S.

Since many of these positions require skilled workers with some level of postsecondary education, Washington's school systems are also a source of high demand jobs in Washington. To help train the workers they need, regional businesses have been working closely with educators to help them design curricula that meets their needs. As a result, STEM education in Washington has increased nearly 20 percent since 2001.

Let's take a closer look at the best jobs in Washington's major metropolitan areas so we can see how they make up the best industries in Washington as a whole and also how they differ on an individual level.

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Metro Area

Total Population
3,735,216
Median salary for high school grads
$35,011
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
$62,172
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
27.8%
Median rent
$1,297

Seattle is a global technology and information communications hub, both for homegrown companies such as Microsoft and external companies such as Facebook and Apple. These companies and others like them employ tens of thousands of software developers, computer and information managers, web developers and other key positions in the IT and IT support industries, many of which are among the top high paying jobs in Seattle.

The greater metropolitan region also has emerged as a major player in cloud computing, big data and blockchain technologies in recent years. Additionally, the region is home to a large gaming ecosystem, with influence from companies such as Microsoft, PopCap Studios, Bungie and Nintendo. These firms employ even more IT specialists, from computer and research information scientists to application, software and web developers.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Software Developers, ApplicationsBachelor's degree$133,59050,940
Marketing ManagersBachelor's degree$158,6205,340
Computer and Information Systems ManagersBachelor's degree$164,70011,700
Computer and Information Research ScientistsDoctoral or professional degree$152,2901,200
Web DevelopersAssociate's degree$98,4805,070

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

Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA Metro Area

Total Population
547,688
Median salary for high school grads
$29,784
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
$46,618
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
29.4%
Median rent
$833

Spokane's economy is a microcosm of the entire state. The Spokane region is home to the nation's fifth-large aerospace cluster — more than 120 manufacturers, suppliers and distributors are located in the area. Traditional industries in the Spokane Valley include forestry products, manufacturing, agribusiness, logistics and professional services. These mainstays are coupled with emerging industries such as healthcare, biosciences and life sciences research.

Though these industries are very different, they share a common need for skilled managers who can keep operations running smoothly. For this reason, careers such as general and operations managers, chief executives and computer and information systems managers are among the most high demand jobs in Spokane.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Nurse PractitionersMaster's degree$148,440380
Physical TherapistsDoctoral or professional degree$79,450600
Computer and Information Systems ManagersBachelor's degree$124,120530
Chief ExecutivesBachelor's degreeN/A290
General and Operations ManagersBachelor's degree$110,4703,270

*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/
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