Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education consists of 14 state universities, each of which offers online academic programs and individual courses. The Bureau of Postsecondary & Adult Education grants permission to private out-of-state degree-granting institutions seeking to offer distance education programs to Pennsylvania residents. In order to ensure the quality of these online programs, Pennsylvania requires that these institutions be fully accredited by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Students looking for more information can consult PA Universities Online, an online resource provided by the State System of Higher Education. Students can use this site research and find information about online programs. Another helpful resource is the Pennsylvania Distance Learning Association (PADLA). PADLA is a non-profit organization devoted to providing information and knowledge about distance education and encompasses all types of online learning, including continuing education, workplace training, and adult education courses.

Online colleges in Pennsylvania offer generous scheduling policies for students with other major time commitments. Most of the state’s online programs do not have hard deadlines, meaning students with full-time jobs can watch lectures and complete readings during the evening or weekend when they are less busy. Online colleges in Pennsylvania typically offer significantly lower tuition rates to students studying in their home state. Many schools also offer hybrid programs, which combine online learning with on-campus requirements.

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

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Pennsylvania State University

 3/586.11%University Park, PA


Launched in 1998, Penn State was one of the first accredited universities in the country to offer online degrees. Through a mix of undergraduate and graduate programs, Penn State Online offers more than 125 degrees and certificates in education, business, engineering, technology, health care, and more.

To help acclimate online students, the school offers services for academic advising and career counseling, online tutorials and personal assistance, as well as access to a nationally recognized research library. The typical course length is 12 to 15 weeks, with eight to 12 hours of work per three-credit course per week. Students typically take on 12 to 20 credits per year.

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Villanova University

 5/589.37%Villanova, PA


Villanova focuses on business careers with a range of online certificate programs, undergraduate degrees, and graduate degrees. Undergraduate majors include public service and administration, leadership studies, and nursing. Graduate programs include public administration and human resources, and certificates are awarded for proficiency in lean six sigma, software testing, business management, leadership, and ROI methodology, among others.

Undergraduate students must complete a minimum of 42 credits (including the 12 credit clinical decision making assessment) through the university. These students will be granted access to online library materials and services through Villanova's Falvey Memorial Library. Depending on their major, graduate students must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours, enrolling in no more than two courses (six credits) per term.

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Chatham University

 5/555.68%Pittsburgh, PA


Chatham offers options for online and campus degree programs through the College for Continuing and Professional Studies. Students may pursue graduate and undergraduate programs in nursing, health sciences, business and communication, creative and design arts, and education.

Most majors can be completed entirely online, with some requiring occasional campus visits. For three-credit courses, students are likely to spend three to six hours of online study per week for seven weeks, with a maximum of 12 credits per semester. Students may use the Student Success Center to receive deadline reminders, distance learning resources, and policy updates, and to communicate with other students.

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Duquesne University

 5/577.96%Pittsburgh, PA


Duquesne offers online undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing, liberal arts, education, and business. Combined online/on-campus programs in education and music are also available, as well as accelerated, business-centered undergraduate degrees and a RN-BSN bridge program.

Distance students enjoy access to online technical help, academic resources, and a student support network, and can contact faculty through email, online discussion, performance feedback, and interactive technologies. While many programs are available entirely online, some may require an on-site orientation.

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Temple University

 3/569.18%Philadelphia, PA


Temple offers both fully online and hybrid online/on-campus degrees, including graduate, undergraduate, non-credit, and certificate programs. Courses are generally taught by full-time faculty members. Graduate students may complete master’s or doctorate programs in occupational therapy, physical therapy, business administration, and quality assurance. Business administration is the only undergraduate major offered by Temple’s digital education program.

Students are granted access to a variety of learning resources, including writing services, a career center, math and science tutoring, and the University Library System. Temple also permits students from other universities to enroll in online courses.

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Susquehanna University

 5/575.81%Selinsgrove, PA

Susquehanna offers nearly 70 online courses through its summer session. Students may take two intensive, four-week sessions; a regular seven-week session; or a self-paced session that can be finished in anywhere from one to 11 weeks.

Course credits are fully transferrable and may be applied to professionals as well as high school students. Coursework is diverse, including everything from language and U.S. history to economics and international film. The summer online program is only available between May and July.

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Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

 2/567.45%Slippery Rock, PA

Slippery Rock offers a range of online undergraduate degrees, as well as doctoral, master’s, and certificate programs, with most majors focusing on special, elementary, and secondary education. Students resources include assistance with advising, registration, student support services, technical instruction, and career guidance. Undergraduate majors include business administration, nursing, and an individualized interdisciplinary program.

While graduate students may choose from 16 different master’s programs—including data analytics, elementary education, park and resource management, and special education—there is only one online doctorate program (in special education). Certificates in statistics, special education, and online teaching are also available.

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Misericordia University

 4/571.16%Dallas, PA

Misericordia’s online programs are intended to for adults who have prior college credits or an associate degree, and are looking to achieve a bachelor's degree or to enhance their career potential. These courses tend to focus on the healthcare industry, with an emphasis on face-to-face and virtual participation for students. Some classes may require on-campus attendance.

The university offers a range of online undergraduate degree majors, including accounting, business administration, information technology, healthcare management, and nursing. Graduate programs in occupational therapy, organizational management, geriatric care, and health informative are also available. Certificates in addiction counseling, archiving, and sonography are available.

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Millersville University of Pennsylvania

 2/564.15%Millersville, PA

Millersville University offers several online graduate degree programs and one undergraduate nursing degree (BS) through the College of Graduate and Professional Studies.

The school focuses mainly on physical and special education. In addition to master’s degrees in education assessment, special education, and emergency management, Millersville also offers certificate programs in gifted education, STEM education, sport management, and nurse education. Students are permitted to take additional course credits to work towards their degrees at Millersville or other accredited institutions.

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La Roche College

 4/543.17%Pittsburgh, PA

The online degree programs at La Roche focus mainly on nursing practice, administration, and education. The college offers five online undergraduate degree programs and two graduate programs, as well as a diverse range of individual online courses, such as English, algebra, economics, sociology, technical writing, and criminal justice, among others.

Students enrolled in an online course or degree program from La Roche will be given access to several educational resources, such as career counseling, the school’s online bookstore, IT administrative services and support, the Student Help Desk and network, course registries, and the electronic databases of the John J. Wright Library.

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DeSales University

 5/570.65%Center Valley, PA

DeSales offers four graduate degree programs and accelerated undergraduate degree and certificate programs that can be completed online or on-campus (day or night). Online subjects for the accelerated undergraduate program include: nursing, marketing, finance, criminal justice, business administration, and theology. The school offers online master’s degrees in business administration, criminal justice, and technology education. There is one doctorate program for nursing practice in clinical leadership.

In some cases, DeSales students and faculty will share the same virtual learning environment at the same time. The school also offers video conferencing courses and hybrid online/campus degree programs.

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Eastern University

 4/561.27%Saint Davids, PA

Eastern University offers several online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and courses, with a particular focus on education, nursing, and business (including MBAs in management and health administration). The school also offers certificate programs for teachers, special ed instructors, and school nurses, among other professions.

Students are expected to spend seven hours a week on course material, class discussion, and activities. An additional 12-15 hours per week will be spent on readings and assignments. Courses are interactive, leveraging recorded lectures, video content, case studies, group activities, and games.

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Saint Francis University

 4/572.09%Loretto, PA

The online degree and certificate programs at Saint Francis University are focused on the health and medical sciences. There are a total of three master’s programs (health science, medical science, and human resource management), two bachelor of science programs (behavioural science and health studies), and one certificate for autism spectrum disorders.

Students can expect to connect with faculty, instructors, and fellow students through the Blackboard Technology course management system. This provides them with access to streaming videos, discussion forums, group collaboration software, on-demand lecture presentations, and other course materials.

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Drexel University

 5/567.36%Philadelphia, PA

Drexel offers more than 140 online degree and certificate programs. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees cover a wide variety of majors -- everything from arts and education to criminal justice and psychology -- while the three online doctorate programs focus on education, healthcare, and nursing practice. Drexel also offers certificate programs in engineering, information science, legal studies, nursing, business, and clinical research.

Powered by an extensive professional network, Drexel’s online students will be able to communicate with enrollment counselors, academic advisors, and technical support specialists. They will also have 24-hour online access to the university’s W.W. Hagerty Library, Writing Center, and Steinbright Career Center.

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Robert Morris University

 4/562.17%Moon Township, PA

The distance learning program at Robert Morris University offers a variety of degrees designed to enhance professionals’ career potential. Undergraduate and graduate degrees can be completed in the fields of business management, information technology, nursing, health care, education, criminal justice, engineering, and psychology. The school also offers online certificate programs.

Students will granted a dedicated wellness counselor, financial aid counselor, career services, and 24-hour tech support. Robert Morris also offers study abroad component for some majors. Online courses are taught by campus faculty.

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Keystone College

 4/542.37%La Plume, PA

Keystone offers two online master’s degree programs: business administration and accounting. The programs prepare adults professionals for careers in business, finance, management, consulting, public administration, and hospitality, among others.

Students will take common core courses totaling 30 credits, plus 30-33 credits of major coursework, and an additional 57-60 credits of elective coursework. Students are allowed to transfer up to 75 of the 120 credits required for graduation and can expect to complete the program in 18 months.

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Geneva College

 4/564.68%Beaver Falls, PA

Geneva College’s online degree programs are intended for adult professionals seeking to enhance careers in human resources, business management, organizational leadership, and family services. These programs are meant to empower students with a Christian perspective in the workplace environment.

The school also offers hybrid online/classroom degree programs in human resources and organizational leadership. Students will be given 24-hour access to Geneva’s McCartney Library, as well as technical assistance and financial aid. With previous college experience, the school’s accelerated online degree programs can be completed in 16 months.

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Philadelphia University

 5/566.03%Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia University’s online degree program offers both undergraduate and graduate with a focus on healthcare and business management. The school offers nine undergraduate degrees and four graduate degrees. Programs are designed to overlap with others to allow students to change majors without losing any credits, and to provide a more broad-based educational foundation.

Undergraduate students typically complete six terms per year, with each term lasting eight weeks. They may transfer up to 72 credits from other universities. Bachelor’s degrees can be completed in two to three years.

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La Salle University

 5/566.19%Philadelphia, PA

La Salle offers students the opportunity to work toward their degrees in an online or hybrid learning environment. The school’s curriculum is particularly focused on the fields of IT, accounting, and financial crime. It offers six graduate degrees in the fields of information technology, economic crime forensics, IT management, and nonprofit leadership.

Undergraduate and post-baccalaureate programs in organizational leadership, nursing, and pre-speech language pathology are also available. Finally, La Salle also offers fully online certificate programs in cybersecurity, fraud, and IT management, among others.

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Cedar Crest College

 5/569.07%Allentown, PA

Cedar Crest College offers online bachelor’s degrees in business administration, criminal justice, and nursing, as well as master’s programs in education and nursing. The school’s online undergraduate majors include health care management, human resources management, management, and marketing.

Cedar Crest offers a very generous credit transfer policy, including up to 68 credits from a community college and up to 90 credits from a four-year college or university. Students need only complete 30 credits at the college, either online or on-campus. Online classes are taught by the same faculty who teach on the Cedar Crest campus in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

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California University of Pennsylvania

 2/552.53%California, PA

California University of Pennsylvania offers more than 40 undergraduate and graduate online degree programs. Master’s and doctorate degrees are available in the fields of health science, sport management, business administration (MBA), nursing, social science, and education. The school also offers bachelor’s degrees in legal studies, information science, sociology, and wellness and fitness, among others.

The school offers accelerated degree completion options, 100% online compatibility, an alumni network of over 55,000, and services catered to military personnel serving overseas. The Global Online program offers reduced tuition for active-duty members of the military and their dependents, and will work with veterans to navigate the GI Bill.

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Immaculata University

 5/561.16%Immaculata, PA

Immaculata University offers 10 undergraduate degree programs for career-focused adults looking to enhance their professional outlook. Majors tend to focus on business, finance, and leadership, but also include bachelor of science degrees in emergency planning, cybersecurity, nursing, and human resources.

Students are allowed to apply up to 72 undergraduate credits toward a bachelor’s degree from Immaculata. The school also offers a self-paced, on-campus degree program, and an accelerated degree program that mixes online and campus coursework. Students also have the option of attending classes one night a week at the campus in Immaculata, Pennsylvania.

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Carlow University

 4/559.73%Pittsburgh, PA

Carlow University offers eight master’s degree programs in business administration, education, nursing, high performance learning, and fraud and forensics. The school also offers a bachelor of science in nursing, certificates in alcohol and drug counseling and autism spectrum disorders.

Carlow uses an online learning management system to deliver course materials and facilitate interaction between students, teachers, and classmates. Hybrid online/on-campus graduate degrees are also available in nursing practice (DNP) and creative writing (MFA). Online students will be given access to financial aid, an IT help desk, academic advising, library resources, and a graduate student prep course.

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Saint Joseph’s University

 5/573.13%Philadelphia, PA

Saint Joseph's offers a wealth of online graduate degrees, undergraduate degrees, and certificates in business, leadership, health services, education, criminal justice, and liberal studies. The school offers a more diverse range of master’s programs in the fields of criminal justice, health services, and education, as well as two undergraduate degrees in liberal studies and autism studies.

Students will use the online format to access course materials, upload assignments, and participate in group discussions. As a Jesuit, Catholic university, Saint Joseph's is driven to produce graduates with a skillset to promote tolerance, compassion, and social justice.

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Wilson College

 4/541.38%Chambersburg, PA

Wilson College offers just three fully online degree programs, including an associate of arts in management, a registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing (RN to BSN), and a master of education.

Together, the three programs are intended for students pursuing careers in nursing or education, or who are looking to enhance their business management credentials. The nursing program can be completed in 18 months, and the education degree requires 10 courses for 30 credit hours.

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More About Online Colleges in Pennsylvania

Over the last decade, Pennsylvania has demonstrated remarkable leadership in the online education sphere. From the Penn State World Campus, arguably the premier, fully online degree service, to the PA Universities Online program, a complete directory of online courses at 14 renowned PA schools, the state is a pacesetter in online initiatives.

Further information about support services and online expansion plans can be found at the Pennsylvania Distance Learning Association, a membership driven organization, which covers online undergraduate programs, K-12 offerings and the community of teachers and administrators bringing academic excellence to online coursework.

Browse our list of the best online colleges in Pennsylvania for more insight into distance learning programs in this state.

NCES Report

A 2012 report released by the National Center for Education Statistics noted the following about online education in Pennsylvania:

  • More than 60,000 students enrolled in Title IV institutions in-state, roughly 8% of all such students, were taking part in fully online degree programs.
  • Of those, more than half were residing in Pennsylvania; virtually all other students resided somewhere else within the United States.
  • 63.5% of these 60,000 students were enrolled in fully online undergraduate programs.