Best Colleges in West Virginia

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West Virginia is home to more than 40 colleges and universities, encompassing a roughly equal number of two-year and four-year schools. Beyond traditional colleges, the state has several trade schools that offer business and technical concentrations. Additionally, West Virginia has a few colleges featuring special programs in Bible studies and Osteopathy. With such a variety of options available, it can be difficult for some students to choose the right school for them.

When evaluating their college options, students should consider several factors across schools, from tuition to academic offerings. To help prospective students with their research, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in West Virginia, including the top four-year and two-year schools. Our algorithm weighs all of the factors students value in a college, and effectively determines the top programs in the state. Below, you’ll find our list of the best colleges in West Virginia.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

West Virginia’s four-year universities include research and land-grant institutions, liberal arts colleges established in the 19th-century and renowned HBCUs. West Virginia’s oldest surviving postsecondary school is Bethany College, which dates back to 1840. The American Public University System is the state’s largest postsecondary institution, offering four-year programs with a unique distance learning delivery option. West Virginia University is the largest not-for-profit school in the state, with 29,707 students on campus. It is also the state’s flagship school and the only college in the state classified as a research university.

West Virginians with a bachelor’s degree earn a higher salary than those with a high school diploma. The earning gap between residents with a four-year degree and non-degree holders will likely grow in future years, particularly as the number of jobs requiring certification rises. Consequently, it’s never been a better time to consider earning a bachelor’s degree. If you’re interested in attending college in West Virginia, you can begin your research by taking a look at our list of the top schools in the state, presented below.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Ohio Valley University

 3/534.65%Vienna, WV


Ohio Valley University, a Christian institution associated with the church of Christ, is ideal for students seeking intimate class sizes and personalized attention from faculty, as it has approximately 500 students. The school focuses on integrating higher learning, biblical studies, and service work to deliver a well-balanced education for students.

Students at OVU can choose from several undergraduate and graduate degree programs within the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Biblical Studies & Behavioral Sciences, the College of Business, and the College of Education—which includes a new certification program in earth and space science.

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Wheeling Jesuit University

 4/563.74%Wheeling, WV


Wheeling Jesuit University provides liberal arts, graduate, and professional education grounded in the Catholic Jesuit tradition. WJU has 1,500 students, with 74% living on campus, and more than 30 student-run organizations. The school also hosts 20 NCAA Division II athletic teams.

WJU offers more than 40 academic programs, including a doctoral degree in physical therapy. Undergraduate majors range from accounting to environment & sustainability to theology/religious studies. Masters degrees are available in business administration, accountancy, organizational leadership, nursing, and education leadership

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West Virginia University

 2/557.25%Morgantown, WV


WVU is one of the most affordable four-year colleges in West Virginia for state residents and is consistently rated as one of the most military friendly schools in the country. Located in Morgantown, WVU has 475 student organizations, 17 intercollegiate Big 12 varsity sports teams, and has produced dozens of award-winning students, including 24 Rhodes Scholars.

Accredited by the Higher Learning Consortium, WVU has 15 colleges and schools offering 193 different bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees in fields such as creative arts, engineering and mineral resources, medicine, law, pharmacy, and public health.

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Shepherd University

 2/539.83%Shepherdstown, WV


Shepherd University is a public liberal arts university offering a wide range of degrees in business administration, teacher education, the social and natural sciences, and other career-oriented areas. Founded in 1871, Shepherd University has five faculty members who have been named West Virginia Professor of the Year.

Shepherd University is home to the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History & Education, The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, 12 NCAA Division II teams, and the prestigious Contemporary American Theatre Festival.

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Marshall University

 2/544.49%Huntington, WV


Marshall is a public university founded in 1837. The school boasts one of the most beautiful campuses among colleges in West Virginia, and it sits near the banks of Potomac River in historic Shepherdstown, just 65 miles from Washington D.C, Baltimore, and Maryland. Marshall offers baccalaureate degrees in several fields, as well as extensive programs in art, music, theater, athletics, and more.

Students here can choose from 116 different associate, bachelor’s, master’s, education specialist, doctoral, and professional degrees in the Colleges of Arts and Media, Business, Education and Professional Development, Information Technology and Engineering, Liberal Arts, Health Professions, School of Pharmacy, and the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

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Alderson Broaddus University

 4/545.22%Philippi, WV

Alderson Broaddus University is a health-related and professional educational liberal arts institution. Unique among West Virginia colleges because of its links to the American Baptist Churches, ABU offers 30 four-year baccalaureate degrees, seven pre-professional programs, and one master’s degree program.

The five most popular majors include biology, nursing, athletic training, business administration, and criminal justice. Competing in the NCAA Division II level, ABU has the largest varsity sports program in the state. Around 99% of the school’s 1,000+ students receive some form of financial aid.

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West Virginia Wesleyan College

 4/558.38%Buckhannon, WV

WVWC is affiliated with The United Methodist Church and is regarded as one of the leading colleges in West Virginia and the Southeast. Wesleyan offers 44 majors, 34 minors, and bachelor’s degrees in arts, music education, nursing, and science. Master’s degrees are available in business administration, education, athletic training, nursing, and creative writing.

Founded in 1890, Wesleyan houses around 1,400 students, 21 NCAA II athletic teams, and over 70 student organizations. The college is part of the Interstate Certification Project, which helps graduates of Wesleyan’s Department of Education earn certification as teachers in multiple states.

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Concord University

 2/533.71%Athens, WV

Concord University is known for academics, affordability, and veterans. Founded in 1872, the school enrolls over 2,530 students and emphasizes undergraduate, liberal arts education. With a 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Concord maintains a home campus in Athens and a full-service, off campus in Beckley.

Concord offers 13 different bachelor degrees in education, business administration, social work, recreation and tourism management, interdisciplinary studies, communication arts, computer information systems, athletic training, environmental geosciences, and office supervision. Master’s degrees are available in health promotion (MA), teaching (MAT), education (MEd), and social work (MSW).

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West Liberty University

 2/540%West Liberty, WV

West Liberty University, the oldest of all West Virginia colleges, is a four-year public university that emphasizes core values such as caring, professionalism and integrity, excellence, and civil engagement. The school has five academic colleges offering more than 60 programs of study.

Undergraduate programs range from accounting, advertising communication, and Appalachian studies to healthcare management, psychology, and theater. WLU offers master’s degrees in education, business administration, professional studies, and physician assistant studies. Among its many proud achievements, WLU assistant professor of art Robert Villamagna was named West Virginia’s 2016 Artist of the Year.

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West Virginia State University

 2/524.5%Institute, WV

West Virginia State University offers 23 undergraduate degrees and five graduate degrees. The school houses more than 3,100 students, primarily undergraduate, and has a student faculty ratio of of 17:1. WSVU is also the proud home to the Booker T. Washington Institute.

Popular undergraduate degrees include art, business administration, criminal Justice, education, health sciences, international studies, regents bachelor of arts, and sports studies. WSVU also offers master’s programs in the fields of biotechnology, media studies, criminal justice administration, and public administration.

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University of Charleston

 3/535.05%Charleston, WV

The University of Charleston, a private not-for-profit school, is known for being military friendly. Its most popular undergraduate majors are nursing, business, education, biology, and pre-med/pre-pharmacy. Graduate programs include master’s degrees in business administration (MBA), forensic accounting, strategic leadership, and physician's assistant.

Doctorates in pharmacy and executive leadership are available as well. In Fall, 2015, more than 30% of UC’s 2,327 students were on one of the school’s 22 NCAA Division II teams. Six months after graduation, 90% of its students are in graduate school or have have landed jobs.

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Bethany College

 4/546.61%Bethany, WV

Bethany College is a four-year private liberal arts college affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). One of the oldest colleges in West Virginia, it offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 25 fields.

More than 90% of students live on the Bethany College campus, situated one mile from Pennsylvania and five miles from Ohio. The three most popular majors are education/physical education, communications and media arts, and psychology. The school also offers dual degree programs in cooperation with Columbia University in engineering, Case Western University in engineering, and Duquesne University in law.

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Fairmont State University

 2/533.38%Fairmont, WV

Fairmont State University was founded in 1865 to train teachers, and today remains one of the leading colleges in West Virginia. The school offers 80 bachelor degree programs and five graduate degree programs. FSU, an NCAA Division II school, fields 16 sports teams. It is also home to the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center.

Undergraduate degrees are available through a diverse range of colleges and schools, including liberal arts, science and technology, business, education, health and human performance, fine arts, nursing & allied health administration, and the regents bachelor of arts. Master’s degrees are available in education, teaching, criminal justice, business administration, and architecture.

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Davis & Elkins College

 4/537.21%Elkins, WV

Davis & Elkins College is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. One of the leading West Virginia colleges, the campus is home to the largest performing arts venue in the area.

The college offers a wide range of associate and bachelor degrees in business & entrepreneurship, education & sport science, fine & performing arts, humanities, mathematics & science, nursing, and social science. Pre-professional programs are available in many programs, including pre-dental, pre-law, pre-medical, pre-ministerial, pre-pharmacy, pre-physical therapy, and pre-veterinary.

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Glenville State College

 2/532.23%Glenville, WV

Glenville State College, offers five two-year degree programs and 32 four-year degree programs. The school prepares students for careers in teaching, business, land resources, music, the liberal arts, the sciences, criminal justice, and human services.

Roughly 1,800 students are enrolled at GSC and the average class size is 15. GSC is one of three colleges involved in the West Virginia GEAR UP program, which gives 11th and 12th grade students the practical advice and planning skills they need to continue their training after high school.

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West Virginia University at Parkersburg

 1/530.42%Parkersburg, WV

West Virginia University at Parkersburg is the largest community college and one of the largest public colleges in West Virginia. The school offers nearly 50 majors and concentrations including accounting, broadcasting, business administration, child development, criminal justice, general education, information security, network engineering, nursing, occupational development, technical studies, and welding technology.

Class sizes are small, with an average of 14 students. The school has 40 student clubs and organizations and is rated highly as a military friendly institution. The school also offers Ohio residents reduced tuition.

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Potomac State College of West Virginia University

 1/520.26%Keyser, WV

Potomac State College of West Virginia University, which offers two-year degrees and four-year programs, is one of the most affordable colleges in West Virginia. PSC is an NCAA Division II school, with 11 highly competitive teams. “Theme Weeks” throughout the year focus on topics from the arts to humans vs. zombies, promoting an active campus life. The school offers 47 different AA programs, six AAS programs, and two BAS programs.

Majors at PSC are available in many fields, including hospitality & tourism, equine production & management, business management, and criminal justice.

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West Virginia’s two-year colleges provide accelerated programs that prepare students for careers in local industries. The Community and Technical College System serves the largest student body in the state, operating ten campuses statewide. Community college programs within the system are primarily focused on tech careers, with specific concentrations in subjects like business, accounting or health care services. Additionally, some two-year programs offered at West Virginia’s community colleges provide two-year degrees in paralegal studies, design or liberal arts. In any concentration, two-year schools in West Virginia provide a fast track for students looking to join the workforce immediately after graduation.

West Virginians who earn a community college degree often earn higher salaries than residents with only a high school diploma. With an economy dependent on a number of high-tech industries — including biotech, aerospace and automotive manufacturing — community college students get relevant training and have the opportunity to gain valuable work experience while obtaining their degree.

Below we’ve profiled the top two-year programs in the state. In the profiles, you can learn about each school’s relative strengths, academic offerings and other important information.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

West Virginia University at Parkersburg

 1/530.42%Parkersburg, WV


Founded in 1961, WVU at Parkersburg is now among the largest colleges in West Virginia. With almost 50 majors and concentrations to choose from, students are able to earn two-year degrees in 3D modeling and simulation design, computer science, nursing, and more of today’s most demanded fields.

Skills learned in the classroom are developed further by the AIM Mentoring Program, which connects learners with mentors and targeted education sessions designed to reinforce and expand students’ growing expertise. In addition to providing in-state tuition, WVU at Parkersburg also offers reduced tuition rates for neighboring Ohio residents.

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Potomac State College of West Virginia University

 1/520.26%Keyser, WV


Featuring over 50 degree options while maintaining a favorable class size, Potomac State ranks as one of the best two-year colleges in West Virginia. With a student-faculty ratio of 22:1, students get the benefit of individualized attention, and professors get to know their students and work with each one to help them succeed.

Academic credit earned at Potomac can be easily transferred to WVU’s main campus or other four-year institutions. Students can choose from eight fast-track career and technical programs that prepare them to land a job in hospitality & tourism, criminal justice, and equine production & management. The school also offers a regents bachelor of arts degree, allowing its students to earn credit for work experience.

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Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College

 1/529.41%Moorefield, WV


Eastern specializes in rigorous two-year technology and business programs designed for the 21st century. Studies in majors like electromechanical technology and wind energy prepare students for careers in today’s growing, innovative fields.

As a result of the college’s partnerships with West Virginia business, labor, and government leaders, students may also pursue customized degree programs that emphasize classroom instruction merged with skills- and on-the-job training. These special programs improve students’ written communication and interpersonal skills and give them another advantage when they join the workforce.

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Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College

 1/511.86%Mount Gay, WV


Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College’s academic programs focus primarily on the allied health, business, and applied & industrial technology fields. Unlike other West Virginia colleges featured on this list, Southern only offers one humanities-themed program: education.

Students interested in careers in health will learn from highly qualified faculty who take a hands-on approach to teaching and use state-of-the-art technology in real medical environments. Small class sizes also help learners excel. Southern is proud of its high job placement rate and its expanding programs in the allied health field.

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West Virginia Northern Community College

 1/59.04%Wheeling, WV


Unyielding commitment to its students is an essential feature of Northern, making it one of the best two-year colleges in West Virginia. Partnering with area businesses and local school districts, Northern continues to expand opportunities for students across various careers in business, health, culinary arts, and human services.

Northern also focuses on training skilled workers for today’s highly specialized manufacturing jobs. With a combination of rigorous academics and hands-on training, graduates from the school excel in the workplace. Three convenient campus locations also help make Northern an excellent choice for a two-year degree program.

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Pierpont Community and Technical College

 1/510.54%Fairmont, WV

Pierpont is a leader among West Virginia colleges in the state’s growing high technology corridor. Located near a metro area of approximately 50,000 residents, Pierpont welcomes more than 2,700 students annually. With more than 40 two-year degree programs in liberal arts and applied sciences to choose from, students receive practical, hands-on training for rewarding careers.

Because the college shares facilities with Fairmont State University, Pierpont students have access to on-campus housing in dormitory or apartment style. Other facilities include a dining hall and massive student center. Additionally, Pierpont students have the unique opportunity to engage with Greek life.

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New River Community and Technical College

 1/512.5%Beaver, WV

New River offers several AS and AAS degrees. Students have opportunities to study horticulture, mechtronics, or business administration. Law enforcement is also a popular option, and students who have previously successfully completed police academy training may be eligible to apply 13 credit hours toward their law enforcement degree.

Although New River does not offer any AA degree programs, five campus locations make it one of the most convenient colleges in West Virginia for students to earn a science-focused diploma.

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Blue Ridge Community and Technical College

 1/58.84%Martinsburg, WV

Few West Virginia colleges are as directly integrated with the economic needs of the region as Blue Ridge. Its programs are learner-centered and essential to the needs of the globalized local economy. Offering degree programs in liberal arts, business administration, and allied health fields, Blue Ridge provides students with essential skills to be successful in the modern workforce.

As implied by its nature as a technical college, Blue Ridge emphasizes technology as a key to student achievement. Additionally, student organizations, including the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, allow for learning and skill enhancement outside of the classroom.

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Mountwest Community and Technical College

 1/58.6%Huntington, WV

With a broad range of Board of Governors programs, Mountwest is a leader among West Virginia colleges in catering to the needs of adult learners. It is also a leading institution among high school graduates who have a wide variety of AS and AA degrees to choose from.

Another exciting learning opportunity through the school is the Mountwest Maritime Academy, which offers United States Coast Guard-approved training to prepare personnel for the river-towing industry. Regardless of their course of study, students enjoy a state-of-the-art campus and of individualized attention from their instructors.

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If you’re thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in West Virginia, continuing reading to learn more about living in the Mountain State.

Bordering several geographic regions, West Virginia is often referred to as part of the South, Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic part of the country. Known as the “Mountain State,” West Virginia is the only state that lies entirely within the Appalachian Mountains. With such distinctive terrain, the state’s economy is naturally dependent on the logging and coal mining industries. Residents enjoy outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, whitewater rafting and hunting. West Virginia’s culture includes Native American history, Appalachian bluegrass music and folk tradition. That culture has produced a blue-collar workforce driving the production of natural resources for the local and national economy.

West Virginia had a per-capita income of $23,237 as of 2014. In addition, 18.7% of West Virginians 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher, well below the national average of 29.3%. Approximately 84.4% of residents age 25 and older had at least a high school diploma, which is slightly below the national average of 86.3%.

Below, we’ve outlined key characteristics of two major regions of West Virginia:

Regional Spotlight: Midwestern West Virginia

  • Major Cities: Huntington, Charleston, Montgomery
  • Attractions: Huntington Museum of Art, West Virginia Governor’s Mansion, Kanawha State Forest
  • Cost of Living: Huntington’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: West Virginia State University, University of Charleston, Marshall University

Regional Spotlight: Northeastern West Virginia

  • Major Cities: Morgantown, Wheeling, Bridgeport
  • Attractions: Core Arboretum, The Metropolitan Theater, West Virginia Independence Hall
  • Cost of Living: Morgantown’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: West Virginia University, West Virginia Northern Community College, Wheeling Jesuit University


Establishing residency qualifies students for in-state tuition at public colleges in West Virginia. Students 18 or older must provide proof of residency; minors must live with a parent or legal guardian with residency in West Virginia to qualify.

For Minors:

To prove West Virginia residency, a minor must demonstrate that their parents or guardians live in the state. If the parents are divorced, the student must reside with a parent living in West Virginia. Minors must begin living with their parent in the state prior to turning 18 and prove their intention to continue living with that parent until school begins.

For Adults:

Adults 18 and older must meet specific criteria to claim residence:

  • You must physically reside in West Virginia for at least one year prior to declaring residence.
  • You must prove intent to make West Virginia your home.
  • You need to prove your financial independence.

Additional Resources for West Virginia College Students

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