Why go to College in West Virginia?
Several years ago, full-time college enrollment across West Virginia colleges dropped significantly, lagging far behind the national average. In response, the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) launched initiatives designed to improve access to higher education and to bolster existing academic offerings. Today, students in West Virginia colleges benefit from financial aid assistance and expanded programs in many academic disciplines. The state provides many traditional and online college experiences.
With a population of 1.84 million residents, West Virginia is the 39th largest state in the U.S. About 50,000 people reside in each of its two largest cities, Charleston and Huntington.
West Virginia experiences lows of 21.5 degrees in January and highs of 84 degrees in July. Residents can expect an average of 44 inches of rain and 26 inches of snow each year.
- Number of Higher Learning Institutions
West Virginia has more than 30 higher education institutions. West Virginia University, a public four-year school, maintains 12 campuses throughout the state. Students may also earn baccalaureate degrees at one of West Virginia’s 11 private colleges or 12 public universities.
- Sporting Events
The WVU Mountaineers are known primarily for their football and basketball teams. Students enjoy rousing competition at the NCAA Division 1 Level in the Big 12 Conference.
WVU’s Morgantown campus infamously holds a top berth on most rankings for the best party schools. Downtown Morgantown offers a plethora of restaurants, nightclubs, and live music venues for the 21-and-older students. The University of Charleston, located in the state’s largest city, offers similar nightlight opportunities.
What Options are Available for Colleges in West Virginia?
For the student who seeks the traditional campus-based college experience, West Virginia offers two dozen four-year schools with residential housing options. While these schools welcome students of all ages, their programs are suited for recent high school graduates. The on-campus experience allows students to learn and grow in an environment that’s relatively sheltered from real-world pressures.
Online students conduct their studies on distance learning platforms like Blackboard or Moodle. Professors deliver course content and homework assignments in multimedia formats that can be viewed online. Students complete assignments and collaborate with classmates through email, chat rooms, and videoconferencing. Online programs offer more flexibility than their campus-based counterparts. This learning style is especially useful to students who juggle the demands of work and family. The table below illustrates that online schools in West Virginia are quite popular.
Many universities offer hybrid combinations of classroom and distance learning. It’s important to distinguish between a hybrid program and a hybrid course. Hybrid programs require students to complete entire campus-based courses and entire online courses. For example, some programs deliver lower-division courses on campus and upper-division courses online. Hybrid courses require students to attend occasional campus-based meetings, completing most of the coursework through a distance education platform. A school might offer this format for a course that requires a lab.
Popular Degree Programs in West Virginia
West Virginia is known for its mineral resources and engineering industries. Although its economy is no longer primarily driven by coal, major manufacturers continue to utilize the state’s wealth of natural resources. Fulfillment, distribution, and logistics companies also make use of West Virginia’s access to major rail, river, and road transportation routes. Consequently, engineering and business majors are popular among the state’s colleges. Below, are two of the most popular programs in the state.
The study of advanced chemistry, physics, mathematics, and biology is combined with that of real-world economics. Graduates are equipped with the scientific and business knowledge to develop industrial products and processes that are cost-effective, safe, and non-damaging to the environment. Students gain familiarity with biotechnology, petroleum refining, materials, plastics, and fertilizers.
Supply Chain Management
The study of the global nature of supply chain operations and decision-making at the executive management level. Students gain expertise in the essential supply chain elements and the impact of processes, technology, finance, information, and people’s interaction along the chain. Management skills are emphasized. Real-world experiences with industry partners provide hands-on learning opportunities.
Best Online Colleges in West Virginia for 2017
We applied our research methodology to online colleges in West Virginia and created this ranking of the top online schools in the state. Our ranking contains insightful details about each featured school, including information on accreditation status, admissions and transfer policies, academic programs, and outreach efforts to nontraditional students. Most of these schools offer, at minimum, a bachelor’s program.
University of CharlestonCharleston, WV
Admissions Rate 52%
Default Rate 12%
Retention Rate 66%
Graduation Rate 47%
Online Enrollment 28%
The University of Charleston is recognized nationally for an innovative curriculum that combines critical thinking, communication, ethics, creativity, and citizenship. More than 2,300 traditional and nontraditional learners take classes on campus and online. The school offers eLearning bachelor’s programs in accounting, business administration, cyber security, nursing, organizational leadership, and psychology. Classes have a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and the most popular undergraduate programs include nursing and business.
Online learners at UC pay one, per-credit tuition rate regardless of in-state or out-of-state residency. UC is a military-friendly school. Military students receive tuition discounts and credits for prior college, military, and life experience. The institution offers programming in 30 states.
West Virginia UniversityMorgantown, WV
Admissions Rate 86%
Default Rate 9%
Retention Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 57%
Online Enrollment 11%
West Virginia University, established in 1867, has transformed from an agricultural college to a world-class institution with a comprehensive catalog of offerings. WVU, one of the top online colleges in West Virginia, offers online programs through its eCampus in child development and family studies, general business, and multidisciplinary studies. Online offerings also include an RN-to-BSN program and the regents bachelor of arts. The 120-credit RBA was designed to meet the needs of nontraditional learners, allowing them to earn credit for military, work, and life experience. RBA enrollees have the opportunity to specialize in one of nine fields, including advertising, child development, communication studies, and public relations. The program also boasts a full catalog of minors, which includes forensic and investigative science, entrepreneurship, political science, and religious studies.
Marshall UniversityHuntington, WV
Admissions Rate 88%
Default Rate 13%
Retention Rate 73%
Graduation Rate 45%
Online Enrollment 8%
Marshall graduates have earned careers as leaders of industry, education, science, and the arts. MU, one of the first institutions of higher learning in the state, offers online degrees in geography, medical laboratory science, and nursing. Marshall is among online schools in West Virginia to offer a regents degree online.
Marshall's nursing program is nationally recognized by ACEN and is offered completely online. The BSN includes individualized curriculums and part-time enrollment. The regents degree is ideal for nontraditional learners, such as students with an associate degree returning to school after a hiatus. The degree offers various minors and emphases. Marshall is one of the best online colleges in West Virginia. Some courses are only offered in a hybrid format. MU Online also offers an undergraduate certificate in public health.
West Virginia University at ParkersburgParkersburg, WV
|Default Rate 27%||Graduation Rate 39%||Online Enrollment 13%||
WVUP opened in 1961 in an abandoned elementary school with 100 students. The school is the fourth largest college in the state. Students are taught at two locations, which include Parkersburg and Ripley, in classrooms with a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The university offers two completely online degrees in child development and nursing.
The child development bachelor's program offers three tracks; students have the opportunity to earn a certificate or an associate or bachelor's degree. The RN-to-BSN is a degree-completion program. The curriculum offers nurses the opportunity to earn the credentials needed for career advancement and graduate study. WVUP, one of the top online schools in West Virginia, administers courses asynchronously using the Blackboard learning management system.
How We Ranked the Schools
To determine the best programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online master’s in management information systems programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.
Education Trends in West Virginia
As the table below illustrates, West Virginia lags behind the U.S. aggregate population’s attainment of higher education. Perhaps most striking, 6.8% fewer West Virginians hold bachelor’s degrees than the national average. However, the HEPC’s efforts to improve the state’s educational statistics are evident. Compared to the U.S. as a whole, West Virginia spends 1.8% more of its tax revenue on higher education development.
|West Virginia||United States|
|Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census|
|Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student||$5,542||$6,954|
|Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education||7.6%||5.8%|
|Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree||6.6%||8.1%|
|Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor’s degree||11.7%||18.5%|
|Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher||7.4%||11.2%|
Paying for College in West Virginia
Cost is an important variable when choosing a school. Consider each school’s beginning tuition rate and then factor in potential financial aid opportunities. Some schools may offer more, thereby negating higher tuition rates. Financial aid includes loans, grants, and scholarships.
The next table compares the average tuition costs for two-year and four-year public schools in West Virginia against the national average. Though tuition for two-year colleges is slightly higher than the national average, tuition for four-year schools is significantly lower. This likely reflects efforts by the HEPC to make West Virginia colleges more accessible and affordable. It’s also important to note that this table only reflects flat tuition rates and does not include extraneous costs such as transportation, housing, and books.
Whether applying to online schools in West Virginia or campus-based programs, students should take full advantage of financial aid opportunities. The first and most important step is to complete the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). This form enables a school to determine a student’s eligibility for federal and state-based funds in the form of grants, low-interest loans, or scholarships. The financial data required by the form is also used to calculate financial aid awards from private sources.
West Virginia college students may be eligible for need-based grants. Applicants to online schools may be eligible for the Higher Education Adult Part-Time Student Grant Program. Other students may be eligible for state-based merit awards based on academic performance or area of study.
Cost for Online Programs in West Virginia
Students who attend online colleges in West Virginia must first complete the FAFSA. Federal and state financial aid at online schools in WV is identical to that of traditional students, including eligibility requirements for need-based or merit awards. Distance learners should be aware of cost differences that may affect eligibility for need-based awards. Tuition at online schools in West Virginia is generally the same as on campus, but online students can save on transportation costs, housing, and child care expenses.
Cost of Living by Region
A student’s cost of living can vary depending on the location of their school. As the table below illustrates, the cost of a rental in Morgantown is considerably lower than in several major cities surrounding the state. Students living in these cities who attend online colleges in West Virginia must account for a much higher cost of living.
Scholarships for West Virginia College Students
- Air & Waste Management Association Allegheny Mountain Section
Up to $4,000; must be an undergraduate pursuing a career in environmental science, engineering, or law. Eligibility is based on academic achievement, plan of study, extracurricular activities, and recommendations.
- Carville M. Akehurst Memorial Scholarship
$4,000; must be resident of West Virginia, Virginia, or Maryland and enrolled in an accredited landscape or horticulture program at the baccalaureate or graduate level.
- Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation Scholarship
Varying; must be a resident of West Virginia and a full-time student with a minimum ACT score of 20 and a minimum GPA of 2.50.
- Helen Holt Mollohan Scholarship
$1,000; must be a female, a resident of West Virginia, and a student of Glenville State College in good academic standing.
- James T. and Rose M. Perryman Family Foundation Scholarship
Up to 97% of tuition capped at $25,000 per year; applicant must live within 150-mile radius of Pittsburgh and be a full-time student in technology, engineering, math, or metals. Required GPA of 3.0.
- Kings Daughters Health Foundation Health Career Scholarship
$2,500; first-year scholarship for students pursuing careers in healthcare.
- Carl R. Morris Memorial Scholarship
$1,000; applicants must reside in Calhoun County and attend West Virginia University, Glenville State College, or Alderson-Broaddus College. Student must demonstrate financial need, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and major in pre-law.
- David Womack Memorial West Virginia LGBT Scholarship
$1,000; must be a resident of West Virginia.
- Korean-American Scholarship Foundation, Eastern Regional Chapter
Varies; need-based scholarship awarded to students who reside in a designated Eastern Region state. Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Can all Scholarships be Used for Online Programs?
As with other types of financial aid, most scholarships do not require students to live on campus. Students of online schools in West Virginia should be eligible for all the scholarships listed above, as well as any others targeted to West Virginia residents. Check with the scholarship’s granting body; some may have programmatic requirements that preclude distance learners from eligibility.
Employment Outlook in West Virginia
West Virginia’s unemployment rate is above the national average, and annual earnings below. These numbers likely reflect the state’s relatively low number of residents who hold higher education degrees. As the HEPC continues its push to enroll West Virginians in college, the state Department of Commerce offers projections of degree-prepared job growth in several areas. Through 2024, the state expects increased demand for jobs in technology, management, healthcare, and education.
|West Virginia||United States|
|Source: BLS and BLS|
|Unemployment Rate, May 2017||5%||4.3%|
|Annual Mean Wage, May 2016||$40,250||$49,630|
Top Employers and Industries in West Virginia
- Government: Due to its proximity to Washington, DC, the federal government is an enormous driver of the state’s local economy. According to the federal Office of Policy Management, 18,464 West Virginia residents staff government offices.
- Health Services: The table below shows that the top state employers are medical facilities. Many graduates can find jobs in the state’s growing healthcare industry.
- Transportation: Products coming from West Virginia can reach half of the U.S. population overnight. In addition to its efficiency, outbound transportation from West Virginia is economical. These factors will continue to draw the trucking industry to the state, offering a stable job field. According to the West Virginia Trucking Association, 1 in 16 jobs in the state are within this industry.
Top Employers in West Virginia
Accreditation for Colleges in West Virginia
Accreditation signifies that a school has allowed its curriculum and admissions policies to be scrutinized by a neutral third party. The accreditation process ensures incoming students that a standard of academic rigor can be expected at these schools. There are three types of accreditation and many authoritative bodies.
National accreditation focuses on distance education and vocational education. Students who are considering online colleges in West Virginia should look for schools bearing Distance Education Accrediting Commission approval. Regional accreditation emphasizes academic rigor and is typically of higher value.
Programmatic accreditation is less common but highly indicative of a solid program. In these cases, an independent body evaluates programs in specific academic disciplines. The accrediting body is often a professional association tasked with upholding the industry’s gold standard of performance. It would behoove any students to acquaint themselves with programmatic accreditations within their majors.
Resources for Students in West Virginia
- College Foundation of West Virginia: The foundation’s website contains information on financial aid, college planning, and career planning. Students and parents can learn about college fairs, get help with admissions portfolios, and sign up for text reminders about important college application deadlines.
- Common Ground: Offered through the West Virginia Department of Education, Common Ground offers career planning, tutoring, and mentorship for current military servicemembers and veterans. Students and their families may also access financial aid assistance, student leadership opportunities, and resources for children of families in the service.
- Governor’s Internship Program: The West Virginia Secretary of Education and the Arts offers high-achieving college students internship opportunities with nonprofits, private businesses, and government agencies.