Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania 2021

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals with a bachelor’s degree earn a median weekly salary more than $1,000 higher than workers with only a high school diploma. This increased earning potential can help college-educated individuals achieve a higher quality of life and plan for their financial future. Both recent high school graduates and working professionals can pursue bachelor’s degrees through online colleges.

Students considering one of the online colleges in Pennsylvania can research the state’s highest-paying professions to help them select a major. For example, the BLS reports that managers in Pennsylvania earn a salary of $125,270 per year. These professionals typically need at least an undergraduate degree.

Colleges and universities typically list the same admission requirements for on-campus and online programs. Applicants must usually submit high school transcripts or GED scores, and international applicants who learned English as a second language must generally provide TOEFL scores. Most Pennsylvania online colleges also require learners to meet technology requirements, such as a high-speed internet connection.

 
 

Top 10 Online Colleges in Pennsylvania

Rank School Location
1 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
2 Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA
3 Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA
4 University of Scranton Scranton, PA
5 Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus University Park, PA
6 University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus Pittsburgh, PA
7 Villanova University Villanova, PA
8 Muhlenberg College Allentown, PA
9 Saint Joseph's University Philadelphia, PA
10 Messiah College Mechanicsburg, PA
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FAQ


  • How long do you have to live in Pennsylvania to get in-state tuition?

    Most Pennsylvania online colleges and universities grant in-state tuition rates to incoming students with at least 12 months of continuous residency in the state. Veterans and military members may have different requirements.


  • How much does it cost to get an online degree?

    The cost of attending online colleges varies based on factors such as the student’s residency status. Private colleges and universities typically charge higher tuition rates than public schools.


  • Can you go to college in Pennsylvania for free?

    Many Pennsylvania online colleges provide grants to students who need additional assistance after receiving federal and state aid. Not all schools participate in this program.


  • How many colleges and universities are in Pennsylvania?

    More than 150 accredited colleges and universities award degrees in Pennsylvania. Dozens of other trade and technical schools provide career-focused programs.


What Are the Goals of an Online Degree?

Many online colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate degrees. Accredited online programs deliver the same academic experience as their on-campus counterparts. Distance programs often deliver coursework asynchronously, creating scheduling flexibility for learners. Students in asynchronous courses do not meet at set times, allowing them to complete assignments at their convenience.

Learners attending online colleges in Pennsylvania can pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fields such as animal welfare and behavior, nonprofit leadership, and applied arts and sciences. Distance learners typically graduate in approximately the same amount of time as students earning the equivalent on-campus degree.

Why Get an Online Degree?



Students often choose online colleges in Pennsylvania for multiple reasons, such as cost savings, scheduling flexibility, and the potential for career advancement. Learners can achieve these and other benefits by selecting an accredited school and earning excellent grades.

Save Money
Some online colleges charge students the same tuition rates that on-campus learners pay. However distance learners often pay reduced tuition rates and save on costs such as meal plans and on-campus housing.
Continue Working
The ability to work while earning a degree can help students avoid debt. Working professionals can also immediately apply knowledge and skills from their coursework.
Develop In-Demand Skills
Online degree-seekers need to manage their time and become familiar with the latest software. These transferable skills can make graduates attractive job candidates.
Explore New Careers
Earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree can qualify individuals for advanced positions. These high-level roles often include greater responsibilities, such as managing other employees.
Invest in the Future
According to the BLS, bachelor’s degree-holders earn a median weekly salary about $1,060 higher than that of workers with a high school diploma. Professionals with a master’s or doctoral degree earn even higher median salaries.

What Are the Requirements for an Online School?

High school graduates without college experience must typically submit official high school transcripts. Some online colleges in Pennsylvania recommend that applicants provide standardized test scores, recommendation letters, or a personal essay. Specialized programs, such as an RN-to-BSN program, often feature additional admission requirements, such as a minimum undergraduate GPA and a background check.

Undergraduate students typically remain in good academic standing by passing all courses and maintaining a minimum 2.0 GPA. Other graduation requirements may include a senior seminar or capstone course, during which degree-seekers synthesize their knowledge and skills through an essay or project. Graduates often use this final project to impress potential employers.

What Is Accreditation and Why Does It Matter?

Scholarships for Online Students

Although students attending online colleges often save money compared to on-campus learners, degree-seekers can further reduce out-of-pocket expenses by earning scholarships. The following list features awards for Pennsylvania residents and online learners. These scholarships accept applications annually, and some renew as long as recipients remain in good academic standing.

Pennsylvania House of Representatives Scholarship Fund

Who Can Apply: The Pennsylvania House of Representatives awards this competitive scholarship to in-state high school seniors with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants submit official transcripts, a school counselor form, three recommendation letters, and an essay. The scholarship automatically renews each year as long as recipients earn grades of B or higher in all undergraduate courses.
Amount: Varies

Pennsylvania Targeted Industry Program

Who Can Apply: This program supports Pennsylvania undergraduate students majoring in agriculture, diversified manufacturing, health, and energy. Applicants must provide FAFSA results and academic transcripts. Learners apply by May 1, and some students receive a living stipend in addition to the scholarship. Candidates must be attending an approved school.
Amount: Up to 75% of tuition costs

Last Dollar Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Philadelphia high school students who participate in Philadelphia Education Fund’s College Access Program can qualify for this scholarship. Applicants must have exhausted other federal and state financial aid opportunities. Academic requirements include a minimum 2.0 high school GPA. The scholarship renews annually for up to six years as long as recipients pass all courses. The application window opens each year on April 1.
Amount: $200-$7,500

All Around Scholarship

Who Can Apply: African American high school seniors and undergraduate students can apply for this award from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must provide an essay and one reference. The scholarship committee also considers financial need. Interested students should apply by March 8. This scholarship does not renew.
Amount: Varies

Education Matters Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Unigo offers this scholarship to college and high school students who are 14 and older. Applicants submit a 250-word essay detailing the importance of college and the positive impact of higher education on individuals’ lives. Unigo uses a November 30 application deadline, and high school students do not receive the scholarship funds until they enroll in an accredited college or university.
Amount: $5,000

Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania 2021



  1. University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) was founded in 1740 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by Benjamin Franklin. It is one of the founding members of the Association of American Universities. Today, the 302-acre campus supports over 165 research organizations and over 10,000 undergraduate students.

    Features

    Most of the classes at the University of Pennsylvania are on campus. However, the Penn Online Learning Initiative creates a unique online learning environment for students with credit and non-credit options. Types of classes include:

    • Online Credit Courses – these classes are either fully online or hybrid formats that will allow students to gain undergraduate and graduate credits.
    • Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – non-credit continuing education course that is offered through Coursera or EdX, such as Accounting Analytics, Building High-Performing Teams, Robotics: Mobility, Robotics: Aerial Robotics and Single Variable Calculus
    • Professional Development – non-credit training program for workforce
    • Flipped Courses – a unique learning environment where content is learned before class and then discussed in class with the professor.
    • Online Student Communities – Student informational hub that connects students to peers, departments and Penn resources
    Notables

    The University of Pennsylvania has been the first to do many things. They are the first higher education institution to follow the European multidisciplinary model. It is the first collegiate business school (Wharton, 1881); had the first electronic, large-scale general-purpose digital computer (ENIAC, 1946); and the first Ivy League female president (Judith Rodin, 1994). Notable alumni include US President William Henry Harrison and current President Donald Trump.

  2. Carnegie Mellon University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Carnegie Mellon University was founded in 1900 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania by Andrew Carnegie. Today this 149-acre private research university provides online and on-campus educational opportunities to well over 14,000 students. It continually ranks within the top 25 US universities by the U.S. News and World Report.

    Features

    The Carnegie Mellon University experience is best experienced on campus. However, the university has for-credit online courses, non-credit MOOC courses and a few master-level online degrees available. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is one of the venues that the university uses for non-credit programming. For the online degree programs, Carnegie Mellon offers the following:

    • Master of Science in Business Intelligence & Data Analytics
    • Master of Science in Information Security & Assurance
    • Master of Science in Information Technology & Management
    Notables

    Carnegie Mellon University has been known for scientific research. They were the first to offer a Robotics and Drama programs as well as the first institution to offer a LAN based wi-fi network in 1993. Their alumna Stephanie Kwolek discovered the Kevlar fiber and had been used to protect personnel for decades. James Gosling is the father of Java – the programming language.

  3. Lehigh University
    Location

    Bethlehem, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Lehigh University was founded in1865 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania by Asa Packer, railroad construction business pioneer that was also a 2-term Democratic US House of Representatives. Today, it is one of the 24 “hidden Ivy” league schools in the Northeastern Region of the United States.

    Features

    Lehigh University has been offering online or distance learning programming since 1992. Today, most of the undergraduate courses are still on-site courses. However, the ones that are online follow the same curriculum offered in a physical class. At this time, Lehigh University offers 12 online graduate programs specifically created for STEM fields:

    • Master of Business Administration
    • Master of Engineering in Biological Chemical Engineering
    • Master of Engineering in Chemical Engineering
    • Master of Engineering in Healthcare Systems Engineering
    • Master of Engineering in Management Science and Engineering
    • Master of Engineering in Polymer Science & Engineering
    • Master of Mechanical Engineering
    • Master of Science in Management Science and Engineering
    • Master of Science in Manufacturing Systems Engineering
    • Master of Science in Molecular Biology
    • Master of Science in Polymer Science & Engineering
    Notables

    Lehigh University continues its Ivy League impact by being the 6th university in the world recognized as an NGO (a non-government organization that consults on international impact) by the United Nations. Lehigh’s impact is not only found in the United Nations. Their graduates have gone on to invent the escalator, founded Packard Motor Car Company, and designed and built the lock gates for the Panama Canal.

  4. University of Scranton
    Location

    Scranton, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Scranton was founded in 1888 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, by Reverend William O’Hara, the first Bishop of Scranton of the Lasallian Christian Brothers (LCB). In 1942, the Jesuit order took control of the university. Today, the University of Scranton is one of the 28 Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) members.

    Features

    The University of Scranton offers a total of 65 Bachelor, 29 Master, and 2 Doctoral degrees for over 5,400 students. Over 75% of the degree options are only offered on campus. However, there is a small group of online degrees at the master or master certificate level:

    • Enterprise Resource Planning Certificate
    • Health Administration Executive Certificate
    • Health Informatics Certificate
    • Master of Accountancy (MACC)
    • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
    • Master of Health Administration (MHA)
    • Master of Science (MS) in Education
    • MS in Health Informatics
    • MS in Human Resources
    • Supply Chain Management Certificate
    Notables

    The University of Scranton is one of the top 10 master’s universities for 23 years by the U.S. News and World Report. The MBA program is ranked #91 in the nation, and the University is listed as one of the nation’s best values for 4 consecutive years running.

  5. Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
    Location

    University Park, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Pennsylvania State University was founded in 1885 in University Park, Pennsylvania, as a public, land-grant, sea-grant, space-grant and sun-grant research university. In 1892, Penn State offered the first correspondence courses to farmers who were interested in higher education. (The program was delivered by the postman). In 1998, that program became known as the Penn State World Campus. Today, the World Campus offers more than 120 distance learning programs to over 6,000 students from all 50 states and over 60 countries.

    Features

    Today, Pennsylvania State University offers Associate, Bachelor, Master, Certificate and Doctor level degrees and certificates. Most of these degrees can be completed 100% online. However, there is a select few that require residency. Regardless of location, students have 24/7 access to the all necessary materials during their 12-15-week course. Here is a small sample of the available degrees

    • Bachelor Degrees
      • Business
      • Psychology
      • Economics/Finance
      • Agribusiness & Turfgrass Science & Management
      • Nursing
    • Masters Degrees
      • Business
      • Engineering
      • Nursing
      • Home & Security
      • IT
    Notables

    Pennsylvania State University ranks #77 by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and #50 for their undergraduate program by the U.S. News and World Report and #14 top public university of United States. This public Ivy institution has one of the best quality educations available in the United States.

  6. University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) was founded in 1787 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania by Hugh Henry Brackenridge (a writer, lawyer, judge and a Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Justice). Today, Pitt has four regional brick and mortar campuses in addition to its online programming. Today, they serve over 18,000 undergraduate students on campus and online.

    Features

    Pitt also has a staggering number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOCCS) covering topics in Nuclear Science, technology, disabilities, and disaster preparedness. Here is a sample of the Master degree and certificates available online.

    • Gerontology Certificate
    • Health Care Compliance Certificate
    • Master of Education in Elementary Education
    • Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)
    • Master of Public Policy and Management (MPPM)
    • Master of Science for the Clinical Nurse Leader (MSCNL)
    • Post-Doctor of Nursing Practice Certificate in Nursing Informatics
    • Post-Master of Science in Nursing Certificate in Nursing Informatics
    • Security Assured Information Systems certificate
    Notables

    The University of Pittsburgh is a member of the Association of American Universities – there are only 62 research universities in North America in this association. Pitt is #1-best public college in the Northeast region of the US (Wall Street Journal’s Times Higher Education), #24 best public university in the US (U.S. News and World Report), and #66 in the national university list (U.S. News and World Report).

  7. Villanova University
    Location

    Villanova, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Villanova University was founded in 1842 in Villanova, Pennsylvania, by the Roman Catholic Order of Saint Augustine. Today, it is the oldest Roman Catholic university in the state serving over 10,000 students at all academic levels. They are known for their educational excellence and their Phi Beta Kappa chapter honor society. The brick and mortar campus is located 12 miles west of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    Features

    Villanova offers four bachelor's degrees, over 30 masters degrees and many certificates for students to complete online. Below is just a small sample of their online programs.

    • Bachelor of Arts in Public Service & Administration
    • Bachelor of Arts in Media and Technology
    • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies
    • Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in General Studies
    • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN program)
    • Master of Public Administration
    • Master of Science in Human Resources Development
    • Masters in Cybersecurity
    • Masters in various engineering niches
    • Certificates: Agile Management, Project Management, Six Sigma, Business Process Management, Business and Law of Sports, Contract Management, IS Security, Business Analysis, Software Testing, IT Service Management, Business Intelligence, Human Resources, ROI Methodology, & Organizational Leadership
    Notables

    Villanova School of Business is ranked #1 for their undergraduate business schools by Bloomberg’s Business Week. Their nursing program has been designated a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing. The Economist ranks the school as a #3 in best economic value, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance ranks it #31 nationwide for best values in private colleges.

  8. Muhlenberg College
    Location

    Allentown, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Muhlenberg College was founded in 1848 in Allentown, Pennsylvania by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Reverend Samuel K. Brobst. The College is named after Heinrich Melchior Muhlenberg, a German Lutheran pastor and missionary known as the Father of the Lutheran Church in the United States.  Today, the College supports the educational pursuits of over 2,200 students from its 75-acre campus.

    Features

    Muhlenberg offers a distance education program that allows students to take courses either online, onsite or in a blended, hybrid, format for extra flexibility. This programming was recently started in 2015. Muhlenberg uses Blackboard as their student learning portal – however, most classes have a residency requirement attached to them.

    Notables

    Muhlenberg College has regularly ranked high with the U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and Princeton Review. They are in top 100 of the liberal arts colleges within the United States and one of the top colleges in the Northeast. Students can expect that the online courses will have the same level of rigor as their campus-based peers.

  9. Saint Joseph's University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Saint Joseph's University (SJU) was founded in 1851 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by the Jesuits, a Catholic Order. The university is the 7th oldest Jesuit University in the United States and one of 28 Jesuit schools (AJCU) within the United States. Saint Joseph’s University serves over 9,000 students at one of its campuses in Philadelphia, PA, Bala Cynwyd, PA, or online.

    Features

    St. Joseph’s University’s 15 online offerings range and has rolling admission for these programs. SJU uses Blackboard for course delivery and student resources and enables students to have 24/7 access to computer, tablet or smartphones. The available online degrees include:

    • Bachelors of Science in Professional & Liberal Studies
    • Master of Business Administration – MBA
    • Master of Business Administration for Executives Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Marketing
    • Master of Science in Business Intelligence & Analytics
    • Master of Science in Education in Educational Leadership
    • Master of Science in Financial Services
    • Master of Science in Organization Development & Leadership
    • Master of Science in Criminal Justice
    • Master of Science in Education, Special Education for Teachers of The Deaf & Hard of Hearing
    • Master of Science in Education, Special Education Pre K-8 Or 7-12 With Deaf And Hard Hearing Certification
    • Master of Science in Secondary Education 7-12
    • Master of Science in Special Education Pre K-8 Or 7-12
    • Master of Science in Health Administration
    • Master of Science in Instructional Technology Specialist
    • Master of Science in Managing Human Capital
    Notables

    Saint Joseph’s University is continually recognized by the U.S. News & World Report for their online MBA program, Graduate Programs (excluding MBA) and Graduate Education Programs. One of SJU notable degrees includes the only Master’s degree in Executive Food Marketing Master of Business Administration (MBA) in the world. This program has been offered for over 25 years, and they don’t show any signs of stopping.

  10. Messiah College
    Location

    Mechanicsburg, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Messiah College was founded in 1909 in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania by Brethren in Christ Church.  Messiah offers a combination of 80 campus-based and online academic programs for over 3,300 students.

    Features

    Messiah College does offer online courses to undergraduates during the summer months so to assist students with finishing their degrees on time or early. While most can be completed online, a few courses like General Chemistry has a residency requirement. As for their Master’s degree programs, the following degrees are offered online with no or minimal residency requirements.

    • MBA degree with focus in one of the following: Digital Marketing, Social Entrepreneurship, Organizational and Strategical Communication, Strategic Leadership or Management
    • Master of Arts in Counseling degree with focus in one of the following: clinical mental health, marriage, couple and family counseling, school counseling
    • Master’s in Music in Conducting degree with focus in one of the following: choral, orchestra, or wind instruments
    Notables

    Messiah College is a college of distinction as one of the best places to learn in Pennsylvania and for their return on their investment (AfforableCollegesOnline.org) and one of the “Most Environmentally Responsible Colleges in U.S. and Canada”.

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