The Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania for 2021

Now is a great time to consider applying to online colleges in Pennsylvania. Here, we list the best programs for 2021. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Many colleges in Pennsylvania offer online programs, which can be smart options for anyone with work, family, or life obligations that may get in the way of in-person classes. Distance learning can help you obtain a degree at an affordable price while working full time or tending to other obligations, and there are plenty of degree options to choose from in this state. Online programs typically offer flexible class options, whether it’s live, remote lectures in the evening or on demand lectures pre-recorded by your professor. Plus, many courses will allow you to complete coursework at your convenience in order to accommodate busy schedules.

Earning a degree online can help you advance your career or give you the ability to switch to a new field. Plus, online degrees can lead to careers in growing fields. For example, students who earn an online master’s in education can become education and childcare administrators. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), education and childcare administrators at the kindergarten through secondary level earned a median annual salary of $102,980 in Pennsylvania in 2020.

If you’re interested in attending a college program to further your career or education goals, you may want to check out the best online schools in Pennsylvania. These schools offer a ton of benefits for distance learners in the state.

The 5 Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania

#1 Saint Francis University Loretto, PA
#2 Thomas Jefferson University Philadelphia, PA
#3 Point Park University Pittsburgh, PA
#4 Temple University Philadelphia, PA
#5 Misericordia University Dallas, PA

Methodology: Here's How We Rank Schools

At Best Value Schools, we help students of all ages get the best possible value for their education. When choosing the best schools and programs, we prioritize tuition rates, student debt, financial aid opportunities, graduation rates, and the availability of online programs. We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.
Metric Data Used Percentage
Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 25%
Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 35%
Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 15%
Program Offerings Number of program options 10%
Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 15%
You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.

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

You must live in Pennsylvania for 12 consecutive months to receive in-state tuition rates.

How fast can you earn a bachelor’s degree online?

Degree-completion time varies by program. Most bachelor’s degrees take four years to complete. If you take an accelerated program, you can often graduate in 16 months.

Are online degrees credible?

Many online programs deliver credible and valuable degrees. Most online degrees carry the same weight as degrees earned on campus. Choose an accredited school to ensure the credibility of your online degree and help you find the best online college in Pennsylvania.

Can you get your master’s online?

You can earn online master’s degrees in a variety of disciplines, including business administration and education. Master’s programs often require some in-person components, which distance learners typically complete locally.

In-State Tuition Cost in Pennsylvania

According to Pennsylvania’s State System for Higher Education, typical in-state public tuition averaged about $7,716 for the 2020-2021 academic year for just tuition and fees related to classes. For students who chose to live on campus, the average fees for the 2020-2021 school year were about $21,959, including housing. 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 2017-2018, students in Pennsylvania paid, on average, about $40,068 per year in tuition at private schools. During that same time frame, housing fees at private colleges ran about $7,271 on average, while private board fees cost about $5,900 for in-state students on average. 

Out-of-State Tuition Cost in Pennsylvania

Out-of-state tuition at public colleges or universities tends to be a lot more costly than in-state tuition anywhere in the nation, and the same is true for Pennsylvania. Out-of-state private tuition and fees in Pennsylvania averaged about $40,068 per year for the 2017-2018 school year, while out-of-state students attending public school in Pennsylvania paid about $27,129 during the same time frame, according to the NCES.

What Are the Requirements for an Online College in Pennsylvania?

Requirements to earn an online degree in Pennsylvania vary by program. Admission requirements for online undergraduate programs often include SAT or ACT scores and high school transcripts. If you are a prospective graduate student, you may need to submit a writing sample or work portfolio. Many graduate programs also require applicants to demonstrate work experience.

An online program may also require you to complete a capstone project or thesis. These culminating experiences allow you to demonstrate proficiency in a specialization area. For example, if you are pursuing a master’s in English literature, you may write a thesis on 18th century poetry.

Accreditation for Online Schools in Pennsylvania

If you’re thinking of getting an online degree, you should confirm the accreditation status of each online university in Pennsylvania and program before applying. Employers typically only approve accredited institutions for tuition assistance programs, and only students at accredited schools can qualify for federal financial aid. Accreditation confirms that a school offers consistently high-quality educational programming. Independent organizations recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation evaluate schools and programs and award accreditation.

Schools in the U.S. can receive regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation typically applies to nonprofit, academically oriented schools. National accrediting agencies often evaluate for-profit and vocational institutions. Regionally accredited schools usually only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited institutions. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) awards accreditation to schools that offer online programs. DEAC ensures all distance education programs meet the same academic standards as their on-campus counterparts. You can verify the accreditation status of any school or program using the searchable database from the U.S. Department of Education.

Certifications and Licensure for Students in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania regulates certain fields through licensing and certification requirements. After graduating from an online college in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania residents may obtain licensure or certification to demonstrate expertise in their field. The following list provides examples of licenses and certifications Pennsylvania professionals may need to practice, depending on their field and position.

Reading Specialist Certification

Reading specialists who work in schools must obtain certification from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The certification requires a master's degree in education and qualifies reading specialists to provide services to K-12 students. Candidates for the reading specialist certification must pass an exam.

Nursing Licensure

Nurses need a license to practice in Pennsylvania. Candidates for nursing licensure must pass an exam to demonstrate competency in their practice. Licensure candidates need a nursing degree from an accredited school and must pay a licensing fee. Nurses in Pennsylvania renew their license every two years.

Social Work Licensure

Social workers must obtain state licensure to practice in Pennsylvania. A social work license demonstrates that the professional meets standards of practice. Candidates need at least a master's in social work and must pass the relevant exam from the Association of Social Work Boards.

Professional Organizations for Students in Pennsylvania

Joining a professional organization can help you network with current professionals in your field. If you live in Pennsylvania, you can join local organizations focused on your area of study. These organizations also provide resources and educational opportunities to help you prepare for your career. If you’re attending college in Pennsylvania, you can explore the professional organizations below.

The PSPA connects and supports physician assistants and students in Pennsylvania. The organization helps members find job opportunities and offers local professional development courses. Members can also take advantage of organization events. Membership applicants must provide information about their workplace or school.

A state branch of the American Counseling Association, the PCA advocates for counselors in Pennsylvania. Professionals and students can join this organization, and members can receive a consultation from a counseling professional. The PCA also offers continuing education courses and access to its journal. Members pay annual dues.

PennAEYC serves early childhood educators in Pennsylvania, with nine chapters in the state. Members can network with other professionals through social media and at professional development events and conferences. Teachers and students can apply for membership.

PASA advocates for school administrators and provides professional development and networking opportunities. School administrators and supporters of public education qualify for membership. PASA delivers current information and field-related news. Members can access professional development programs including virtual seminars and conferences, along with employment advice.

Scholarships are an ideal way for students to finance their education. Many distance learners apply for scholarships to minimize their student debt. Students may qualify for scholarships based on their field of study or their personal background. The following list includes a few of the scholarships available to students in Pennsylvania online programs.

Pennsylvania House of Representatives Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Pennsylvania residents can qualify for this scholarship. Applicants must be graduating seniors of a Pennsylvania high school and must plan to attend a four-year college. Candidates need a minimum 3.0 GPA and a history of community leadership. Applicants must also submit an essay.
Amount: Varies
Deadline: March 1

Family & Children's Services of Lebanon County Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports learners from Lebanon County in Pennsylvania. Applicants must be pursuing higher education in social sciences or human services. Approved fields include nursing, social work, and therapy services. Applicants must submit a resume and a personal essay describing career goals.
Amount: Varies
Deadline: March 30

Mary Grace Shearer MSW Scholarship for the Advancement of Social Work

Who Can Apply: Students pursuing a bachelor's degree in social work can apply. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA, must be a junior or senior in college, and must demonstrate financial need. This scholarship aims to advance the field by recruiting students who will promote high standards.
Amount: $500
Deadline: June 1

Samuel L. Abrams Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Graduates of Pennsylvania schools in Cumberland, Dauphin, or Perry County may apply. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and must plan to attend a college or university. Applicants must submit a resume and a personal essay about their college plans.
Amount: Varies
Deadline: May 31

Harry N. and Melva A. Derickson Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports students who live in Dauphin, Cumberland, or Perry County. Applicants must plan to pursue a degree in dentistry, nursing, physical therapy, or engineering. The scholarship committee may select multiple recipients. Applicants must demonstrate community service experience and must submit a personal essay describing their interest in their chosen field.
Amount: Varies
Deadline: March 15

The 5 Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania for 2021

Pennsylvania regulates certain fields through licensing and certification requirements. After graduating from an online college, Pennsylvania residents may obtain licensure or certification to demonstrate expertise in their field. The following list provides examples of licenses and certifications Pennsylvania professionals may need to practice, depending on their field and position.

  1. Saint Francis University

    Loretto, PA



    A public school based in Loretto, Saint Francis offers students 27 online degree options, including business, healthcare, and human services. Saint Francis also features post-baccalaureate certificates in areas such as cybersecurity, human resource management, and sports management.

    Both graduate and undergraduate students benefit from Saint Francis's online learning platform in associate, bachelor's or master's programs. Working graduate students enjoy the flexibility of online courses and enrolling part time or full time based on their scheduling needs. Saint Francis provides associate and bachelor's degrees at a discounted tuition rate.

    Saint Francis accepts applications for online degrees on a rolling basis. Students can start their degree at any time of the year, including the middle of the semester. Applicants submit their official transcripts, and some programs require additional materials. Saint Francis allows enrollees to transfer as many as 90 credits from another institution, depending on the program.

    • Graduation rate: 73%
    • Tuition cost: $25,000/yr.
    • Admission requirements (GPA/Standardized Tests): High school transcript required, standardized test optional 
    • Contact: (814) 472-3000
    • Website:
  2. Thomas Jefferson University

    Philadelphia, PA



    A regionally accredited school in Philadelphia, Jefferson offers 23 online programs to help students earn a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree and achieve their professional goals without interfering with their careers.

    Jefferson's online programs prepare students for internships, jobs, and careers after completing coursework. The school features reduced tuition rates to help students pursue their education, along with financial aid for eligible enrollees taking at least six credits per semester.

    Jefferson's online programs allow applicants to submit their application on a rolling basis, and the school makes a decision once it completes an applicant's file. Undergraduate applicants must submit their high school transcripts and college transcripts, if applicable. Graduate application requirements depend on the program. For example, the innovation MBA requires a resume in addition to transcripts.

  3. Point Park University

    Pittsburgh, PA



    A private school located in Pittsburgh, Point Park offers online programs that allow students to advance in their current careers or gain the skills to start a new career. The school designs their online programs with busy professionals in mind, allowing students to create a flexible class schedule and benefit from reduced tuition rates.

    Undergraduate students can choose from 12 career-focused bachelor's programs, including organizational leadership and criminal justice. Point Park also offers seven master's degree programs such as communication technology and education administration. Students enjoy small class sizes, allowing them to receive individualized attention from experienced faculty.

    Applicants must submit official transcripts. Undergraduate applicants may also earn credits based on experiential learning after submitting a learning assessment portfolio. Graduate programs require two recommendation letters, an essay, and a resume. Enrollment counselors work with each student to determine transfer credits and financial aid options.

  4. Temple University

    Philadelphia, PA



    A public university based in Philadelphia, Temple offers online degree programs that give busy students the flexibility to attend courses using a learning management system or web conferencing for live sessions.

    Temple's online college consists of 15 master's degree programs, including communication management, business administration, and recreational therapy. The college also offers a bachelor's in business administration. Continuing education students can also choose from a number of non-credit professional development courses, such as GRE preparation, writing for ESL, and video game design.

    Admission requirements differ based on the program and may include submitting documents such as a personal statement or recommendation letters. Teaching programs may also ask students to submit a copy of a valid teaching certificate from any state. Programs typically require transcripts to qualify for admission.

    • Graduation rate: 74% 
    • Tuition cost: $16,956/yr.
    • Admission Requirements (GPA/Standardized Tests): Standardized test optional, high school transcript, 3.0 GPA range
    • Contact: (888) 340-2222
    • Some info on online presence:
  5. Misericordia University

    Dallas, PA



    A public university located in Dallas, Misericordia offers students the opportunity to take courses from home with their online programs. These programs cater to nontraditional students looking to advance their careers or start a new one.

    Enrollees can choose from the 13 available bachelor's programs, including social work, accounting, and business administration. Professors provide individualized attention in classes of no more than 18 learners. Students choose between a fully online program or a hybrid model. Hybrid courses prepare students to navigate online learning prior to continuing their degree fully online.

    All applicants must submit transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Other admission requirements depend on the program. For example, Misericordia's RN-to-BSN program requires applicants who graduated more than 10 years ago to document their clinical experience. Academic advisors help students create a curriculum that can easily transfer to other schools.

Michelle Honeyager picture

Michelle Honeyager


Michelle Lovrine Honeyager is a freelance writer living in Southeast Wisconsin who covers education topics for Best Value Schools, Grad School Hub, and Criminal Justice Degree Schools, among others.

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