Best Online Colleges in Washington

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Washington is one of 16 member states in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). Membership comes with a host of benefits for online learners, including reduced tuition and state reciprocity agreements that allow students to pursue educational programs not offered within their home state. Additionally, students in Washington benefit from WashingtonOnline, a consortium of participating community colleges in the state that offer online courses in a variety of subjects. Here, students can complete prerequisites or an associate degree online, taking classes from several different colleges, all in one convenient space.

Colleges in Washington state are following national trends prioritizing online education. According to a recent report released by the Babson Survey Research Group, a record 70.8% of academic leaders said that online learning is a crucial component of their school’s long-term growth strategy.

Distance learners who enroll online can study at their own pace, and many students are able to work full time as they complete their degree. Many online students prefer to take classes in their home state, which learners find advantageous for several reasons, including reduced tuition in some cases. Students enrolled at an in-state college can also take hybrid courses—classes that feature a mixture of online and on-campus requirements—and seamlessly complete required internships locally.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Location Description
1University of Washington 3/5N/ASeattle, WA

The University of Washington-Seattle has a robust online school. It is constantly expanding its degree options with innovative programs like the new Master of Science in Data Science program, which teaches students to understand big data and how companies can make use of it.

Another innovative program is the Master of Science in Technology Innovation program, which helps students hone their entrepreneurial savvy, and create groundbreaking user experience programs. This degree consists of project-based courses, and can be completed in just 15 months. Online programs offered at UW include:

  • Bachelor's in Health Information & Health Information Management
  • Bachelors In Nursing (accelerated)
  • Masters in Public Administration
  • Masters Aerospace Engineering
  • Doctor of Audiology
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2Washington State University 3/5N/APullman, WA

Washington State's online school stresses communicative learning, where online chats and group projects are the norm. The online school has a special media team that creates engaging graphics, animation, and educational gaming resources.

The school offers round-the-clock tech support, and even maintains Associated Students of Washington State University Global, a student body government specifically for online learners. The student government organizes special events and on-campus Washington opportunities. Washington State's videos online present events like webinars and live-streamed academic events. The school encourages real-world learning, and many of the master's programs require students to complete internships instead of thesis projects. Online programs offered at WSU include:

  • Bachelor's in Hospitality Business Management
  • Bachelor's in Human Development
  • Master's in Engineering and Technology Management
  • Master's in Molecular Biosciences
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3Central Washington University 2/5N/AEllensburg, WA

Central Washington University's online school operates on a quarter schedule, offering hundreds of classes each term with small class sizes. The classes typically are not self-paced, requiring students to adhere to deadlines.

The school has an online support resource which offers advising in academics, degree completion, and career possibilities. Many of the graduate school programs require students to complete field-based practicum and thesis projects. Online test-taking software is utilized in many course. Online programs offered at CWU include:

  • Bachelor's in Aviation Management
  • Bachelor's in Information Technology and Administrative Management (ITAM)
  • Master of Education, Higher Education
  • Master of Science in Health and Physical Education
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4Western Washington University 2/5N/ABellingham, WA

Western Washington University offers both term-based and self-paced online courses, which allow students to complete a course on their own schedule within a six-month time frame. Term-based courses offer both asynchronous and synchronous coursework, with video lectures available 24/7, and time-based class conferences or online discussions.

Examinations must either be taken on the university campus, or at a prearranged proctored location. Western Washington University also offers a unique contract Independent Study Program, which allows students not enrolled at the university or taking time off to take a credit-based independent study project with a university faculty member. Online programs offered at Western Washington University include:

  • Bachelor's in Human Services
  • TESOL Certificate Program
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5University of Washington – Tacoma 3/5N/ATacoma, WA

UWT offers online courses on a quarterly basis, with coursework distributed asynchronously for maximum flexibility. UWT online courses use video lectures, Flash animation, and other interactive media to liven up online learning. The school also allows students to take independent language learning credits, in which they can pursue French, Spanish or German entirely through interactive online resources.

UWT's entirely-online Criminal Justice Degree program offers independent study electives in which students can work one-on-one with a professor in research or social work. Online students pursuing a degree are assigned an academic advisor to help them navigate their degree path.

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6Eastern Washington University 2/5N/ACheney, WA

Eastern Washington University offers online courses that are available asynchronously. Some of the online master's program require periodical on-campus coursework, typically on weekends to accommodate the working adult. Those degree programs can be completed in two to three years.

EWU is part of the eTutoring network which helps students seek academic help remotely, through video chat, and without an appointment. EWU also has online certificate programs in unique subjects like the Tribal Planning Executive Certificate and Child Life Specialist Certificate. Online programs at Eastern Washington University include:

  • Bachelor's in Children's Studies (degree completion)
  • Bachelor's in Interdisciplinary Studies (degree completion)
  • Master of Science in Dental Hygiene
  • Master of Social Work
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7Northwest University 4/5N/AKirkland, WA

Northwest University is a Christian institution with a broad, rapidly growing online school. Students take one course at a time, and each program integrates a faith-based ethos. Most master's programs can be completed in two years.

Certain programs even allow online students to participate in one of Western's annual international trips, while receiving course credit. For instance, the Master's Degree in International Community Development lets students begin and end their degree program with a week in Oxford with their "cohort group" of students that they'll take courses with throughout their degree program. Most master's programs stress hands-on field work. Online programs offered at Northwest University include:

  • Bachelor's in Criminal Justice
  • Master's in International Community Development
  • Master's in Business Administration
  • Master's in Ministry
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8Saint Martin’s University 5/5N/ALacey, WA

St. Martin's online college is specifically structured for the needs of nontraditional students. The school also offers a number of programs and scholarship particularly for students transitioning out of the military. Courses are taught through the online course network of Moodle, and focus on research-intensive learning.

Students complete courses on a semester-basis, and frequently complete their degree through a variety of transfer credits, as well as evening or weekend courses. St Martin's offers courses in subjects ranging from accounting to theatre arts. The school offers an authorized testing center with proctoring so students can complete exams on a flexible schedule. An example of an online program offered at Saint Martin's University is its Bachelor's in Psychology.

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9Antioch University – Seattle 4/5N/ASeattle, WA

Courses at Antioch University are offered on either a semester-basis, or as seven- or eight-week sessions. Online coursework is offered asynchronously, though deadlines keep students on-schedule. With flexible transfer credit policies, many students can complete the bachelor's degree program within two years and master's degree programs in three years.

All online bachelor's degree programs require the Interdisciplinary Core of Antioch's on-campus programs, which provides students with a background in society, culture, literature, and leadership. The master's program emphasizes real-world counseling work and field experience. Online programs offered at Antioch University-Seattle include:

  • Bachelor's in Human Services Administration
  • Bachelor's in Liberal Studies
  • Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
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10City University of Seattle 3/5N/ASeattle, WA

City University of Seattle offers a number of degree programs that can be completed entirely online, or with ratios of in-class credits. Many of the bachelor's programs can be completed in three years, and the master's programs in two. The business-related degree programs train students to build collaborative skills in teams of students based around the world.

Most master's programs require capstone projects or internships. The online software offers video lectures, discussion groups, and more, all asynchronously for maximum flexibility. Online students are also offered access to the school's online research library and on-site computer laboratories. Online programs offered at City University of Seattle include:

  • Bachelor's in Business Administration
  • Bachelor's in Information Technology
  • Master's in Integrated Supply Chain Management
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11Peninsula College 1/5N/APort Angeles, WA

Peninsula's online school offers instruction through online videos and interactive television sessions. The Bachelor's in Management includes one 250 hour internship program, through which students are guided by an internship coordinator.

Peninsula also offers a wide range of Community Education courses, such as Veterinary Assistant or Certified Bookkeeper, which span six weeks and emphasize project-oriented learning. Each course offers one-on-one learning with your instructor, and tuition payment includes all books and resources. Pencol offers online academic assistance through its eTutoring program. Online programs offered at Peninsula College include:

  • Bachelor's in Management
  • Associate in Homeland Security Emergency Management
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12Heritage University 3/5N/AToppenish, WA

Heritage University offers online courses asynchronously, to maximize convenience for students, with some synchronous, online virtual classroom discussions. Courses are offered on a semester basis, and master's programs can usually be completed in two years. The online master's programs stress research-based experience, requiring internships and fieldwork that build student's professional portfolio.

The master's programs also require a handful of intensive, in-person seminars that take place on campus. Heritage also offers a "ProTeach Portfolio Support program," for working teachers who want to earn a second-level certification on their path towards a master's degree. Online programs offered at Heritage University include:

  • Bachelor of Arts- English
  • Masters of Arts in English
  • M.Ed. in Educational Administration
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13Bellevue College 1/5N/ABellevue, WA

In addition to Bellevue's robust set of online courses, the school also offers a great deal of classes on a "hybrid" basis, in which students attend on-campus classes, typically once a week.

Unlike many online schools, Bellevue maintains a firm attendance policy, and students may be unenrolled from class if they do not log into their virtual classroom on the first day. Bellevue has a very flexible transfer policy, as well as specialized credit transfer agreements with a handful of universities in the area. Examples of online programs offered at Bellevue College are:

  • Associate in Arts and Sciences
  • Associate in Business
  • Associate in General Studies
  • Bachelor's in Business Management
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More About Online Colleges in Washington

Online education is becoming more and more popular in Washington; in 2012, a total of 27,848 students attended online higher education programs exclusively. Of these distance learners, 8,851 were enrolled in public, 4-year institutions. Distance learning make it possible for students to completely remove their commutes, create their own flexible schedules and access high quality courses increasingly similar to those offered on-campus—it’s no wonder busy people eager to advance their careers are choosing it over traditional college.

Washington is home to a thriving economy that boasts the second-highest minimum wage in the nation. However, cost of living in the state has risen dramatically in the last decade, and along with it, so has college tuition. But tuition rates and financial aid are in transition; the Washington state Senate recently passed a bill that will reduce public university tuition up to 20% over the next five years, and all of these institutions offer partially or entirely online degree programs. Additionally, Washington granted $363.5 million in state-based financial aid in the academic year of 2012-2013. Also of note is the state’s first nonprofit, 100% online university, WGU Washington, which has become a model for best practices in web-based learning. Students seeking high quality, innovative online programs would do well to research those offered in the state of Washington.

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

NCES Report

A recent NCES report shows that 7.5% of students in Washington (for a total of 27,848) enrolled in exclusively online degree programs.

  • 29.8% were living in Washington
  • 89.6% of students were considered undergraduates
  • 34.7% studied through public 4-year institutions
  • 11.4% studied through private 4-year institutions
  • 7.5% were living elsewhere in the US

Washington recently joined the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, or SARA, which promotes distance learning across state borders by unifying standards for degree programs, keeping tuition increases in check, and providing a safeguard against fraudulent or sub-par programs. Additionally, online learners have access to WashingtonOnline, which provides students (and teachers) with support and resources, such as a schedule organizer and bookstore, as well as information on all the online programs in the state.