Updated: August 1, 2017
As one of the 16 member states making up the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, or WICHE for short, Washington state has a lot of benefits to offer online students, including reduced tuition rates and reciprocity agreements allowing students to participate in educational programs which are not offered in the student’s home state. In addition, Washington students have the benefit of using WashingtonOnline, a hub where community colleges statewide offer online courses across a wide variety of subjects. With this hub, students can easily complete prerequisites, or even complete an associate’s degree online, by choosing relevant classes from different colleges in one convenient online hub.
In recent years, we have seen a national trend placing a higher priority on online education, and Washington state’s colleges are following this trend. Distance education students enrolling online have the freedom to study at their own pace, even working full-time while completing their degree. Many online students like to take classes from an institution in their own home state, and enjoy benefits like reduced tuition, as well as the ability to take hybrid courses if they wish – a mixture of online and on-campus requirements. Still others like the freedom to take courses from the university of their choice no matter where they live, and many universities in Washington are bucking the trend of out-of-state tuition for their online students, making online distance education in Washington state an attractive and affordable prospect for online students everywhere.
What Are the Best Online Colleges in Washington?
The ranking system we use is based on three factors: institutional excellence, then student satisfaction, and finally, student success or return on investment.
The first metric, institutional excellence is gleaned from a variety of data points which are publicly available from the school, including its graduation rate, reputation, test scores, student-faculty ratios, and so on.
Then, student satisfaction comes into play. This metric considers reviews from actual students, drawing from a range of websites and publications.
Finally, student success, or return on investment, is measured by considering the costs of tuition, the availability of financial aid, average student debt post-graduation, and expected salaries. Most of this data comes to us from the IPEDS database at the National Center of Education Statistics, as well as sources like US News & World Report, Payscale, and college websites.
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $32,111
A private Roman Catholic research school, Gonzaga University is located in Spokane. Gonzaga is host to seven colleges, and it is generally considered to be one of the absolute best schools in the Pacific Northwest region.
For the online student, Gonzaga Univesity offers 16 online programs, all at the graduate level, which range from a master’s degree in Sport and Athletic Administrations to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs. Most of Gonzaga’s programs are aimed toward those who hold nursing degrees, so students seeking an exceptional online educational experience in a nursing related field, Gonzaga is a great choice.
Featured online programs include:
- Communications, M.S.
- Leaderships Studies, M.A.
- Sport & Athletic Administration. M.S.
- Doctor of Nursing Practice, D.N.P.
- Theology, M.A.
As a private school, costs are higher than other schools, but the quality of the education is reflective of the cost. Costs range from $945-975 per credit hour for their online master’s and doctoral programs. Gonzaga’s focus is on the Jesuit tradition of education, and whether you are a student of healthcare or other ideas, Gonzaga students benefit from their focus on leadership, critical thinking, innovation, and creativity. Its online programs are designed to be balanced with work and family life, so whether you are seeking graduate studies in Communications, Leadership Studies, Theology, Sport and Athletic Administration, or seeking your DNP doctorate as a nurse, Gonzaga may be just the school for you.
University of Washington-Seattle Campus
College Choice Score: 98.87
Average Net Price: $9,744
The flagship university of the state, the University of Washington has campuses in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell, and for those who either aren’t in those three cities, or simply want a little freedom in the way they study, The University of Washington’s School of Professional & Continuing Education is a great place for online students to pursue a great education online.
With UW Online, students have access to 16 different program offerings, ranging from a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Social Sciences to a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, as well as many online certificate programs. Many of these online programs are focused on the sustainable sciences, making UW Online a good fit for the eco-conscious student who is looking for a career in the sciences which is focused on protecting the planet. These skills are particularly valuable in the workforce of Washington state in general, and in Seattle in particular, making UW Online a valuable choice for the Washington resident or Washington-bound student.
UW Online’s costs per credit hour for ins-state residents is higher compared to some schools at about $800 per credit hour at the undergraduate level, and higher rates for grad students, but financial aid is available, and most admitted students do receive some form of aid. Undergraduate students may pursue a bachelor’s degree in Childhood & Family Studies, or in Integrated Social Sciences. Graduate students may pursue online master’s degrees in Aerospace Engineering, Library & Information Science, Sustainable Transportation, and several more. Featured online programs include:
- Early Childhood & Family Studies
- Integrated Social Sciences
- Aerospace Engineering, M.S.
- Geographic Information Systems Sustainability Management, M.S.
- Infrastructure Planning & Management, M.S.
- Sustainable Transportation, M.S.
Most of UW Online’s online programs are designed so that students can dedicate one evening a week to class work, and if you prefer, hybrid online/on-campus programs are an option. For these reasons, UW is one of the most convenient and flexible online colleges in Washington. For those interested, UW has online enrollment coaches available to help students apply for a program, and to help distance students access the many resources available, including IT resources, library services, and the services of the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity. Featured online programs include:
- English, Humanities & Liberal Arts
- Communication & Journalism
- Management Information Systems
- Environmental Sciences
Western Washington University
College Choice Score: 91.82
Average Net Price: $15,914
A public university located in Bellingham, Washington, near the border of Canada and in virtual shouting distance of the city of Vancouver, Western Washington University has a reputation for being ranked among the best schools in the Northwest US. Its academic integrity and affordability also make it a good choice for online courses, but for the student seeking a fully online program, WWU may not suit everyone’s abilities.
The school only offers a single fully online degree, a bachelor’s degree in Human Services; however, this program is offered as a part of WWU’s Department of Health and Community Studies at the institution’s own Woodring College, one of its oldest and most widely respected programs. So, for the right student, WWO’s online bachelor’s in Human Services is a very good choice, which is even better when one considers the very affordable price of just $250 per credit hour. For those not seeking a full bachelor’s program online, WWU also offers an online certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, or TESOL. This certificate is unique among online colleges in Washington, and offers a blended program for students who wish to work abroad either as an English teacher, or in a humanitarian role such as the Peace Corps.
If your goals involve world travel and humanitarian service, these online programs at WWU can be a great place to start. WWU also offers a generous amount of transfer credits, up to 104 of the 180 total credit hours in a degree, so even though the online offerings are limited in subject, their affordability and uniqueness get them a spot on this list.
Washington State University
College Choice Score: 87.80
Average Net Price: $17,929
The second largest public research school in the state, Washington State University boasts 4 campuses in the southeastern region of the state, including a so-named “Global Campus” for its online degree program. Recognized for its excellent undergraduate and graduate programs, WSU’s online programs is becoming increasingly noted for its dedication for innovation and pushing the boundaries of online education. Washington State’s modest cost of in-state tuition at $492 per credit hour make it an attractive choice economically, and its extensive choice of 21 online programs make it a popular choice for many online students.
Washington State’s online programs range from a bachelor’s degree in Management to a wholly online MBA, and strike nearly every note in between. Consistently ranked among the best online colleges in Washington, students at WSU’s Global Campus can pursue bachelor’s degrees in humanities, hospitality business management, psychology, and more, and the Global Campus also has plenty of options for seekers of certifications or graduate studies.
Featured online programs include:
- Hospitality Business Management
- Human Development
- Information Systems Management
- Integrated Strategic Communication
- Food Science and Management, M.S.
- Molecular Biosciences, P.S.M.
- Master of Business Administration, M.B.A
A major benefit of WSU’s online Global Campus is the Global Connections initiative, which connects online students who may live many, many miles away from each other. This is accomplished via a variety of webinars on subjects ranging from fitness tips to search engines. Most major-specific courses are offered in a concentrated 7-week format, while general education courses span a more traditional 16-week semester. There are also online learning opportunities for students not seeking college credit, including a 16-week leadership course in which students learn valuable life skills and a certification which looks good on any resume. Its innovation, affordability, and variety of programs earn WSU a spot on our list of the best online colleges in Washington state.
Central Washington University
College Choice Score: 84.58
Average Net Price: $15,189
Located in Ellensburg, WA, Central Washington University produces around 3,000 graduates every year from its five colleges, and around 10% of these graduates are made up by online students. Central Washington University offers a very diverse range of courses of study consisting of more than 135 majors, from music to geology to education to physics to paramedicine.
The hub of its online activities, Central Washington University’s online campus is called “Finish Line,” and there online students can find online bachelor’s degree programs robust enough to have earned it a consistently high ranking among Washington’s best online colleges. The programs offered are very diverse, and include such areas of study as aviation management, IT, and law. It also offers a hybrid paramedicine program designed with certified paramedics in mind. CWU also offers several certificates and endorsements as online programs from project management to teaching certification.
Featured online programs include:
- Paramedicine (Hybrid)
- Public Health
- Information Technology and Administrative Management
- School Administration, M.Ed.
- Higher Education, M.Ed.
- Literacy, M.Ed.
Central Washington University is able to offer degrees to students living in most states, and one of the key benefits of CWU’s online programs is the fact that out-of-state online students pay the same rates as in-state students. Students also enjoy online access to resources like research librarians and online tutoring. CWU’s diverse range of programs, the lack of a tuition hike for out-of-state students, and the excellent “Finish Line” online campus are some of the reasons CWU retains its spot on our list of the best online colleges in Washington.
Eastern Washington University
College Choice Score: 82.42
Average Net Price: $12,318
A public university residing in Cheney, with smaller satellite campuses across the state, Eastern Washington University is another school that is consistently ranked among the best online colleges in Washington thanks to its diverse range of all online undergraduate, graduate, and certification programs.
Eastern Washington University offers entirely online bachelor’s degree programs at an accelerated pace, helping adult distance learners complete their degrees faster. Options for study include programs in dental hygiene, children’s studies, interdisciplinary addiction studies and health leadership, and a general interdisciplinary studies program in which students can customize their own curriculum. EWU also offers many online master’s programs, including graduate programs in public health, dental hygiene, school psychology, and social work. In addition, for the undergraduate student, there are 13 full minors offered online to complement the major area of study.
Featured online programs include:
- Children’s Studies
- Dental Hygiene; B.S., M.S.
- Interdisciplinary Addiction Studies
- Interdisciplinary Health Leadership
- Public Health, M.P.H.
A notable factor in Eastern Washington University’s programs is that students who are not yet admitted to EWU may actually take classes two quarters prior to their actual admission. Online students also enjoy access to free online tutoring, and enjoy a unique online student orientation as opposed to the on-campus variety required by many schools. EWU’s policy on non-admitted students, the breadth of online programs available, its accelerated schedule, and the many benefits enjoyed by its online students easily solidify Eastern Washington University’s place on our list of the best online colleges in Washington.
College Choice Score: 78.29
Average Net Price: $20,414
A non-profit, private Christian university located in Kirkland, WA, Northwest University also has locations in California at Sacramento, and in Oregon at Salem. Northwest’s main campus in Washington is nested in an area where many tech companies have taken root, including Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. This makes a very fertile ground for employment opportunities for Northwest Graduates. Not to be outdone by its high-tech neighbors, Northwest has steadily increased and improved its online offerings, today offering over 75 programs across all levels of associate’s, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees at both the master’s and doctoral levels.
Online bachelor’s programs at Northwest University consist of Information Technology, Business Management, Organizational Management, Psychology, Public Safety Administration, or Ministry Leadership. Each of the accelerated online undergrad programs require a student to complete 120 credit hours of general education and major specific course work. Nearly 90% of Northwest’s faculty hold a Ph.D. in their field, including the online instructors, complementing Northwest’s reputation as one of the top online colleges in Washington.
Featured online programs include:
- Bible & Theology, M.A.
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling, M.A.
- International Community Development, M.A.
- Business Management
- Ministry Leadership
- Public Safety Administration
Northwest’s main campus in Kirkland is just minutes from Seattle, nested in the heart of Washington’s version of the silicon valley, where tech giants like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon make their home. As a result of its unique position in the state, and in order to best meet the needs of its students, Northwest offers exceptional community connection with innovative, forwarding thinking technology and arts organizations nationwide. As a private Christian university, Northwest holds itself to three values: Academic Excellence, Spiritual Vitality, and Empowered Engagement. Online students at Northwest enjoy access to many of the same resources that traditional students do, including the campus library and career services.
Saint Martin's University
College Choice Score: 76.79
Average Net Price: $20,571
A Catholic university and liberal arts school located in Lacey, Saint Martin’s is notable for housing a real, functioning Benedictine monastery on campus, some of whose members also serve as professors on campus. Saint Martins consistently places very well among Northwestern regional schools, offering an exceptional education experience, and in keeping with the demands of distance learners, today offers online courses for students seeking transfer credit, and one entirely online degree.
Saint Martin’s has only one entirely online program, a bachelor’s degree in psychology, taught by professors in its own College of Education and Professional Psychology. This program, however, is notable for its guidance of students to practice psychology with Benedictine principles in mind. The Benedictine credo is one of service to others, and for students seeking a psychology degree online, it will be very difficult to do better than this one offered by Saint Martin’s. The university also offers well over 150 individual courses entirely online, with subject areas ranging from economics to criminal justice and business administration, making a hybrid program quite feasible at Saint Martin’s. Featured online program include Psychology.
Costs associated with the program are surprisingly affordable for a Catholic university, with students in the online psychology program paying a modest $455 per credit hour. Military personnel enjoy discounted tuition, paying just $250 per credit hour toward the degree. Students here enjoy a very intimate 12:1 student-professor ratio, ensuring that students get personalized attention from faculty when desired. There is also a wealth of aid available at Saint Martin’s, including the Benedictine Scholars Scholarship, Merit Awards, several department awards, and work-study programs.
College Choice Score: 75.43
Average Net Price: $10,828
Located about 20 miles southeast of Yakima, Heritage University is dedicated to providing a quality education to diverse, multicultural populations who have been otherwise educationally isolated. Distinctive for its dedication to providing migrants with excellent education, Heritage University’s spot on this list of the best online colleges in Washington is bolstered by their college assistance program for migrants, helping first-year college students who come from migrant and seasonal worker families better succeed in their education through the help of personalized advising and mentoring.
Heritage University’s programs span a range of programs in English, including writing, literature, and teaching certification preparation. Heritage University graduates are suited for careers as journalists, copywriters, editors, instructors, grant writers, or researchers. Graduate students also enjoy Heritage University’s master’s program in educational administration, preparing teachers for administrative roles. In keeping with its focus on serving a multicultural student body, multiculturalism is a part of every course offered, in every discipline.
Featured online programs include
- English & Humanities
- Educational Administration, M.Ed.
- English, M.A.
Online course materials are available to students 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, so students can study at their own pace, on their own schedule, promoting easier learning and flexibility. Heritage University’s dedication to providing education to those who would be otherwise educationally isolated make Heritage University a wonderful choice for students who want a multicultural educational experience. For those who have struggled in the past, Heritage University relies more on a student’s eagerness to learn than on prior academic performance. However, for out-of-state students, there are limitations on the states where Heritage University offers online classes, so check out their website to make sure you are eligible.
City University of Seattle
College Choice Score: 73.31
Average Net Price: $16,748
A private, non-profit university in the city of Seattle, City University of Seattle, otherwise known as CityU, is a fantastic option for students seeking online degrees. CityU’s online learning programs include 15 bachelor’s degrees, 20 master’s programs, two doctoral programs, and more than 20 certificates and endorsements. With undergraduate programs ranging from applied psychology to applied computing, students at CityU enjoy one of the broadest, most diverse and accessible online programs available at any online college in Washington.
Bachelor’s programs at CityU require 180 credit hours, which can be earned online, onsite, or in hybrid formats. Featured online programs include CityU’s applied psychology program focusing on one of three areas: gerontology, criminal behavior, and child and adolescent services. Another very popular program is CityU’s bachelor’s degree in applied computing, which is modeled after Cisco certification for network associates, Microsoft’s systems engineer certification, and other well- known certification programs. Additionally, this degree can be earned in just two and a half years, making it a very attractive degree for those looking for a career in computer technology.
Featured online programs include:
- Applied Psychology
- Applied Computing
- Business Administration
- Educational Leadership, M.Ed.
- Information Security, M.S.
In addition to online and hybrid courses, CityU also allows students to take courses via a unique ‘regional cohort’ system, a hybrid model in which lectures are delivered online, but exercises are done on-site at a participating college near the student. CityU also offers ongoing webinars to all its students, covering topics like “Networking to Build Business Contacts” and “The Power of the Infographic Resume.” It is very much a school dedicated to working adults, as around 75% of CityU students attend part-time while working full-time.