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Colleges in Pennsylvania

Why go to College in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania is a place steeped in American heritage. Whether you’re a history buff, art lover, or nature enthusiast, the state is an ideal setting to attend college. The home of Independence Hall and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania offers a mix of historical and modern attractions that give students several opportunities for personal and academic enrichment. And if you’re not the city type, not to worry: Amish country and Gettysburg provide unforgettable experiences, and nature explorers can visit the Alleghenies, the Poconos, or the Susquehanna River. This article provides an overview of the state of Pennsylvania’s numerous educational opportunities, along with facts that will aid your college decision-making process.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Pennsylvania is 12.78 million, which increased by 0.6% between 2010 and 2016. It is the sixth most populated state in the country. The state’s largest city, Philadelphia, had 1.57 million residents in 2016, while Pittsburgh had 303,625.


Pennsylvania has four distinct seasons, and the climate varies depending on the region. It is warmer in the southwest (the Ohio Valley) and southeast regions. The coldest month is January and the hottest is July. The average rainfall in Philadelphia is 41.45 inches and the average snowfall is 23 inches, according to U.S. Climate Data.

Number of Higher Learning Institutions

There are 544 colleges and universities in Pennsylvania. Many higher learning institutions are concentrated in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. These include the University of Pennsylvania, which is an Ivy League school founded by Benjamin Franklin, and Pittsburgh’s renowned research university, Carnegie Mellon University. Penn State University is one of the largest public education institutions in the country, and its main campus is located in State College, Pennsylvania, a town that hosts more than 46,000 students.

Sporting Events

Pennsylvania is home to a number of professional sports teams: the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL; the Philadelphia Flyers and the the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL; the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers; the Philadelphia Phillies and the Pittsburgh Pirates of the MLB; and the Philadelphia Union MLS team. The state also has many minor league and collegiate sporting teams.


From restaurants and bars to dance clubs and casinos, Pennsylvania offers exciting nightlife hot-spots where students can let off steam and make new friends. Aside from scarfing down cheesesteaks, Philadelphia students can check out the bars in East Passyunk, the live music venues in Callowhill, or the international food selection in Northern Liberties.

What Options are Available for Colleges in Pennsylvania?


Many students opt to live on-campus while pursuing their college degrees in Pennsylvania. This provides a variety of advantages, including peer studying opportunities, in-person meetings and discussions, and easy access to professors and campus resources. Students also benefit from being active in a larger campus community by interacting with peers in classrooms, dormitories, cafeterias, and other campus venues. In addition, campus life is ideal for students seeking to participate in extracurricular activities including student government, clubs, and sports teams. Living on campus enhances the overall learning experience while helping to create and solidify lifelong friendships.

Online Programs

Online colleges in Pennsylvania give students the flexibility to pursue college degrees at their own pace and convenience. Many classes are asynchronous, so students can access their content and coursework when their schedules permit. Other programs have synchronous classes that require students to log in simultaneously at a scheduled time, which facilitates peer and instructor interaction. Coursework, projects, and exams for online courses can also be completed and submitted remotely.

Online schools in Pennsylvania are an ideal solution for students who are working full-time, raising children, or serving in the military. By eliminating the need for on-campus courses, these programs also make degree attainment possible for those who are hindered by geography. Moreover, online programs tend to be a more affordable option than traditional on-campus degree programs. Tuition can be lower, and room and board costs are unnecessary.

Hybrid Programs

Students attending online colleges in Pennsylvania may choose to take courses in a hybrid format. This type of program combines online and in-person classes, which is ideal for majors (particularly the laboratory sciences) that require a mix of traditional coursework and hands-on, experiential learning. While this requires participants to live reasonably close to campus, it also assists with bridging the gap between traditional, on-campus programs and online ones. Students are able to build relationships with each other and their instructors as a result of shared learning experiences.

Popular Degree Programs in Pennsylvania

It should be no surprise that neuroscience is the most popular degree program in Pennsylvania, as health services (along with education) is the state’s leading industry. In addition, one of the largest employers in the state is the University of Pennsylvania Health System, so many graduates remain in the region to pursue careers in health care. Business management and administration is another popular major for Pennsylvania students. Given that the state’s third largest industry is professional and business services, students in these programs have access to a wealth of job opportunities following graduation.

  • Neuroscience

    This major is a multidisciplinary study of the brain and the body’s nervous system. Drawing from cellular studies and computer imaging techniques, neuroscientists examine the relation between brain circuitry, human behavior, and medical disorders. There are a number of industries in Pennsylvania that require neuroscientists, including pharmacology, research, and counseling.

  • Business Management and Administration

    Students interested in careers in business management select this major to master the fundamentals of accounting, finance, and marketing. Courses also develop skills in interpersonal communication, critical thinking, leadership, and strategic decision-making. Graduates with this major would excel in major business hubs like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

What Are the Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania?

The following is a detailed list of the best online colleges in Pennsylvania. It provides the information you need to determine the program and school that best meets your requirements and interests. Read on to discover the unique differences between each institution. You’ll learn about the history, culture, specialities, graduation rates, and costs associated with each one. This collection of data will simplify your research, and will help you gain the knowledge necessary to make one of the most important decisions for your future.


Villanova UniversityVillanova, PA

Admissions Rate 48%
Default Rate 2%
Retention Rate 96%
Graduation Rate 90%
Online Enrollment 14%

Villanova, located 30 minutes outside Philadelphia in a suburb by the same name, holds a reputation as one of the notable online schools in Pennsylvania. The school offers an online RN to BSN program that allows RNs to earn more, and take on leadership roles after graduation. All courses are taught online, and the clinical portions completed at the student's workplace or a nearby health facility. Respected nursing educators teach topics including public health, ethics, research, and leadership skills. Nursing students can qualify for discounted tuition if they come in with transfer credits. The College of Professional Studies, offers three undergraduate degrees: leadership studies, general studies, and public service and administration. These online programs suit working professionals who have earned some college credits.


Saint Joseph's UniversityPhiladelphia, PA

Admissions Rate 82%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 90%
Graduation Rate 79%
Online Enrollment 21%

Saint Joseph's prides itself as one of the exceptional online colleges in Pennsylvania that helps working students balance an education and full-time employment. The bachelor's degree in liberal studies within the general studies degree completion program allows students with some college credits to finish their degree. The program focuses on autism studies or professional studies -- workplace leadership and development -- concentrations. The degree takes two to three years to complete, depending on the number of transfer credits applied. Online courses are not self-paced but require students to complete assignments within a certain timeframe. They must also participate regularly in classroom discussions and keep in contact with the professor. Students with a 2.0-2.74 GPA require a personal statement explaining the reason for these grades.


Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia, PA

Admissions Rate 75%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 84%
Graduation Rate 68%
Online Enrollment 20%

Drexel, located in Philadelphia, provides students with a flexible learning format as one of the reputable online schools in Pennsylvania. Drexel offers degrees in business, communication, criminal justice, education, general studies, nursing and health professions, psychology, and technology. The part-time bachelor's degree in general studies allows students with transfer credits to complete their degree easily, and focuses on courses in humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Drexel has no cap on the Yellow Ribbon Program, and provides a tuition-free education to qualified veterans. Servicemen and their families also receive reduced tuition. An online educational partnership program works with corporations, schools, and health systems to allow employees to further their education at a discounted rate.


Saint Francis UniversityLoretto, PA

Admissions Rate 74%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 87%
Graduation Rate 72%
Online Enrollment 13%

Saint Francis' online programs offer the same exceptional education as its campus in Loretto, but with more flexibility for working students. The adult degree & continuing studies (ADCS) program allows students to benefit from methods of online learning, including chat rooms, discussion boards, occasional video conferencing, and email. Other benefits of the ADCS program include heavily discounted tuition for non-veterans and veterans, generous transfer credits from other schools, and accelerated formatting. Complete online degree offerings include bachelor's degrees in health studies and behavioral science. The school also offers hybrid programs, including bachelor's degree in accounting. Classroom locations include the main campus in Loretto, Altoona, State College, and Johnstown.


Chatham UniversityPittsburgh, PA

Admissions Rate 55%
Default Rate 3%
Retention Rate 76%
Graduation Rate 56%
Online Enrollment 17%

Chatham's College for Continuing & Professional Studies (CCPS) is one of the best online colleges in Pennsylvania. Here, students complete undergraduate degrees with flexible online learning and low-residency formats. CCPS offers online undergraduate degrees in business administration, healthcare and business management, and nursing. The RN to BSN program allows RNs to transfer a maximum of 90 credits, where students only need 30 additional credits to graduate. The BSN program works well for full-time nurses, and courses are taught in an accelerated, asynchronous format. Most of the online courses for the degree programs follow a seven-week-long intensive format. Online and on-campus students upload assignments electronically to the Moodle course site. Some programs require a brief on-campus residency.


Misericordia UniversityDallas, PA

Admissions Rate 71%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 85%
Graduation Rate 72%
Online Enrollment 14%

Misericordia University (MU), located in Dallas, provides exceptional online programs as one of the premier online schools in Pennsylvania. The Center for Adult and Continued Education provides an accelerated online option called the Expressway Degree for students who want to graduate within two-and-a-half years, on average. These accelerated programs cost much less than their on-campus counterpart. MU offers online degree options, including accounting, applied behavior sciences, business administration, healthcare management, information technology, and RN to BSN. The professional studies degree gives students the opportunity to complete their bachelor's degree with transfer credits from another school. Students must have a minimum GPA of 2.0 for the professional studies program. MU offers hybrid and fully online formats for students.


Slippery Rock University of PennsylvaniaSlippery Rock, PA

Admissions Rate 68%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 68%
Online Enrollment 12%

Slippery Rock University (SRU) offers quality online education for transfer students as one of the top online schools in Pennsylvania. SRU's online degree completion programs allows students to complete their bachelor's if they have credits or an associate degree from another school. SRU offers degrees in leadership studies, management, and nursing. The bachelor's in interdisciplinary programs allows students to make use of existing credits to tailor the degree to suit their academic interests. In order for students to qualify for this program, they must have at least 60 transfer credits, have taken the equivalent of SRU's English, math, and computer proficiency courses, and a minimum GPA of 2.0. In- and out-of-state tuition differs slightly, and active military members and their spouses qualify for a 15% tuition discount.


DeSales UniversityCenter Valley, PA

Admissions Rate 78%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 78%
Graduation Rate 70%
Online Enrollment 14%

DeSales University (DSU), located in Center Valley, provides students with online degrees in its ACCESS program. DSU degrees include business administration, criminal justice, finance, marketing, and psychology. For students interested in studying theology, the school's online degree teaches religion in the tradition of Christian Humanism. Transfer students can use up to 75 transfer credits toward the 120 credits required for graduation. Veterans who qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program receive $8,000 in gift aid. ACCESS tuition differs from traditional tuition, and remains more affordable. Transfer students need a 2.5 GPA, but the school may accept a 2.0 GPA in certain cases. DSU rewards transfer students with merit-based scholarships, depending on factors like GPA, credits obtained, and courses completed.


Duquesne UniversityPittsburgh, PA

Admissions Rate 76%
Default Rate 3%
Retention Rate 85%
Graduation Rate 74%
Online Enrollment 7%

Duquesne offers fully online programs for students leading busy professional lives at one of the best online colleges in Pennsylvania. Duquesne’s online programs enable students to gain a well-rounded education. Students have frequent virtual interactions with peers and professors through both individual and collaborative learning opportunities. The fully online RN to BSN allows RNs to gain further leadership skills while continuing to work full-time. This degree requires no residency, allowing students flexibility in their studies. Accelerated online bachelor's degrees programs include computer systems technology and organizational leadership for students wanting to graduate more quickly. Part-time tuition costs the same for out-of-state students as in-state residents. Duquesne supports the Yellow Ribbon Program for qualified veterans among other financial aid options.


Robert Morris UniversityMoon Township, PA

Admissions Rate 78%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 85%
Graduation Rate 58%
Online Enrollment 13%

Robert Morris University (RMU) is located in Pittsburgh and provides a reputable selection of online degrees for working students as one of the notable online schools in Pennsylvania. Online students receive the same support as those on-campus, with dedicated school, career, financial aid, and wellness counselors. Degree options for the online program include business administration, organizational leadership, health services administration, and criminal justice. The RN to BSN allows RNs to complete their degree fully online while gaining added earning potential. Once nursing students graduate with a BSN, they may continue on to the RN to MSN fully online program to gain further leadership skills within the healthcare field. A minimum 2.0 GPA is required for students to qualify for online programs.


Philadelphia UniversityPhiladelphia, PA

Admissions Rate 64%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 65%
Online Enrollment 8%

Philadelphia University offers PhilaU Online, a program allowing working students to complete their degrees in one of the well-known online colleges in Pennsylvania. Degrees include accounting, business management, behavioral and health sciences. The bachelor's degree in law enforcement leadership teaches students leadership skills through a combination of crime analysis, advanced police management, and contemporary policing. This program takes two-to-three years to complete, with courses spanning eight weeks. As part of the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering, and Commerce, the innovative MBA gives students a practical, project-based curriculum. With an MBA under their belt, students can become CEOs, management consultants, financial analysts, and marketing managers. PhilaU prides itself on affordable tuition, where the undergraduate tuition was reduced by $75 this year.


Temple UniversityPhiladelphia, PA

Admissions Rate 56%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 90%
Graduation Rate 71%
Online Enrollment 2%

Temple University is located in Philadelphia and provides a highly-ranked bachelor's degree in business administration as one of the top online colleges in Pennsylvania. Students benefit from an exceptional education from the Fox School of Business, which allows them to develop successful marketing skills and receive unparalleled academic instruction. Concentrations with the business administration degree include accounting, business management, marketing, and legal studies. Students seeking their master's degree after graduation can benefit from the 4+1 Acceleration Program, which allows some graduate courses at undergraduate tuition rates. This program enables students to complete their bachelor’s and graduate degrees within a five-year period. TU supports the Yellow Ribbon Program for qualifying veterans to receive gift aid for themselves and their spouses.


La Salle UniversityPhiladelphia, PA

Admissions Rate 75%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 78%
Graduation Rate 63%
Online Enrollment 9%

La Salle University offers several fully online programs that allow students to begin or continue their degree in one of the best online schools in Pennsylvania. Completely online graduate programs include business administration (MBA), cybersecurity, and nonprofit leadership. The pre-speech language pathology program readies post-baccalaureate students who need undergraduate prerequisite courses to apply for their master's degree. A bachelor's degree in organizational leadership gives students the tools to become better leaders in today's global business community. The RN-to-BSN program offers nurses the chance to achieve leadership positions within their healthcare specialties. In- and out-of-state tuition is the same for online students. Active veterans qualify for educational support and help with housing expenses from the Department of Veteran Affairs.


Eastern UniversitySaint Davids, PA

Admissions Rate 52%
Default Rate 8%
Retention Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 61%
Online Enrollment 10%

Eastern University, located in St. Davids, is a top Christian college offering asynchronous, online programs for working students at a reputable online college in Pennsylvania. The school's accelerated undergraduate business programs include focuses on organizational leadership and business administration, which may be completed fully online in two years. An accelerated bachelor's degree in youth ministry leadership provides a faith-based program that requires a one-week residency at the main campus. Other accelerated bachelor's degrees include criminal justice, RN to BSN, organizational leadership, and early childhood development. Student success advisors assigned to each student provide support throughout the entire program. All students in accelerated online programs qualify for financial aid.


Immaculata UniversityImmaculata, PA

Admissions Rate 79%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 70%
Online Enrollment 7%

Immaculata University (IU) provides several fully online programs for students who need the flexibility to complete their education at one of the finest online schools in Pennsylvania. These online programs in the College of LifeLong Learning mimic the same high-quality education as those found on-campus, including distinguished professors and up to 72 transfer credits accepted for continuing students. Degrees offered include business leadership, cybersecurity, healthcare management, and RN-to-BSN. The bachelor's degree in allied health for clinical professionals allows students with prior clinical training from a community college or recognized program to continue their studies. This specialized program gives students clinical leadership tools and prepares them for a master's program in the field.


Geneva CollegeBeaver Falls, PA

Admissions Rate 73%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 64%
Online Enrollment 6%

Geneva College, located in Beaver Falls, is one of the best online schools in Pennsylvania. Geneva welcomes students of all faiths and uses its Christian-oriented foundation to provide an education based in faith and community. The school offers several online degrees, including programs in child and family services, human resources, management, organizational leadership, and public relations. These accelerated programs allow students with previous college experience to complete their degree in just 16 months. A bachelor's in aging services teaches students the management skills they'll need to thrive in community-based settings and residential facilities. The program focuses on topics like non-medical direct care support and services, evaluation and planning, aging services administration, and legal procedures. The bachelor's degree in Christian ministry leadership gives students the opportunity to gain a solid foundation, preparing them to work within the ministry as a workplace chaplain, or transition to seminary school.


California University of PennsylvaniaCalifornia, PA

Admissions Rate 85%
Default Rate 8%
Retention Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 50%
Online Enrollment 33%

California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U) offers award-winning, fully online programs for students wanting to attend online colleges in Pennsylvania. The bachelor's degree in Arabic language and culture allows students to develop their language skills in modern standard Arabic, while simultaneously studying Arabic culture. This program focuses on writing, reading, and speaking language skills with the use of various online platforms. The bachelor's degree in liberal studies provides transfer students the option to create a personalized program tailored to their interests. Students take courses from the natural sciences, humanities, or social studies programs. Cal U also offers degrees in computer information systems, legal studies, technology management, and wellness and fitness. Active military, veterans and their spouses receive discounted tuition when they enroll in Cal U Online. Tuition for out-of-state students differs from in-state-students for online programs.


Carlow UniversityPittsburgh, PA

Admissions Rate 81%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 50%
Online Enrollment 16%

Carlow University, located in Pittsburgh, is another online school in Pennsylvania that offers several programs that can be completed entirely online. The school's bachelor's degree in healthcare management prepares students with business-based skills for success in the highly competitive healthcare field. Students in this program go on to careers in healthcare advocacy, insurance, long-term care, healthcare institutions, and private practices. The bachelor's degree in business management enables students to gain critical knowledge using information technology, problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork applications to succeed in a business-oriented career. Students gain a great foundation in this program, and can apply for the online Carlow Accelerated MBA program if they choose to further their education. Carlow's Center for Digital Learning and Innovation (CDLI) ensures that students receive the support they need throughout their online education.


Elizabethtown CollegeElizabethtown, PA

Admissions Rate 71%
Default Rate 3%
Retention Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 78%
Online Enrollment N/A

Elizabethtown's School of Continuing and Professional Studies provides flexible online programs for full-time working students. The bachelor's degree in criminal justice gives students a solid foundation of that system, along with a theoretical approach to the law and current underlying issues within the field. This program allows students to thrive in careers in public safety and court systems; it also serves as the predecessor to law or graduate school. The bachelor's degree in human services, behavior and addictions counseling contains all the coursework of a regular human services degree, but with added courses like group counseling, introduction to addictive disorders, and pharmacology. This program provides the educational requirements for students to take the Certified Drug and Alcohol Addiction Counselor exam.


Widener UniversityChester, PA

Admissions Rate 68%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 78%
Graduation Rate 57%
Online Enrollment 7%

Widener's online degree programs grant working students a flexible learning format where they never need to step foot on campus. The RN to BSN program allows nurses to learn in an asynchronous format, receive 33 active credits for their nursing license, and choose an accelerated version for a quicker finish. There are no on-site residencies to complete, and this program is done completely within the comfort of the student's home. The master's degree in instructional technology teaches students how to integrate technology into learning environments. Upon graduation, students gain employment at training programs, K-12 schools, and higher educational institutions. Coursework in this program allows students to complete assignments at their own pace. Widner's affordable per-credit tuition for online courses costs the same for in- and out-of-state students.


Cedar Crest CollegeAllentown, PA

Admissions Rate 67%
Default Rate 8%
Retention Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 58%
Online Enrollment 5%

Cedar Crest's School of Adult and Graduate Education (SAGE) offers online programs from one of the top online colleges in Pennsylvania. This program delivers personalized attention characteristics of a small private college, but with a highly flexible distance learning format and a generous transfer credit policy. The completely online bachelor's degree in business administration gives students the option of choosing an economics, healthcare management, human resources management, management, or marketing focus. All the online courses offer a regular or accelerated format. SAGE's partnership with the Online Consortium of Independent Colleges and Universities allows Cedar Crest students to take online classes from other schools who are members. In-state and out-of-state students pay the same tuition.


Clarion University of PennsylvaniaClarion, PA

Admissions Rate 96%
Default Rate 8%
Retention Rate 73%
Graduation Rate 49%
Online Enrollment 25%

Clarion Online gives students the opportunity to continue their education with online programs while still holding down a full-time job. Clarion has been nationally recognized for its commitment to online learning. The school's bachelor's degree in business administration in real estate helps students excel in careers like property management, appraisal, and real estate brokerage. The bachelor's degree in library science prepares students by teaching information management and transfer in both traditional and current methodology. Upon graduation, students can apply to the online master's in information and library science program. Qualifying active duty military students and their dependents get a special discounted tuition. In-state students pay a lower tuition rate.


Pennsylvania State University-World CampusUniversity Park, PA

Admissions Rate 61%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 53%
Graduation Rate 40%
Online Enrollment 100%

Penn State World Campus allows students to take full advantage of Penn State's top academic offerings though completely online programs at one of the top-notch online schools in Pennsylvania. World Campus provides support through a new student orientation, access to a nationally-renowned research library, academic advertising, and career counseling. The bachelor's degree in agribusiness management gives students the critical-thinking skills to have a successful career in industries like farm production, food retailing, food manufacturing, commodity marketing and processes, and input markets. The Energy and Sustainability Policy allows students to choose either a bachelor's in science or a bachelor's in arts. Both degrees contain coursework with classes focusing on the global and environmental impact of energy, and understanding stakeholders' roles. The bachelor's of arts students get a chance to take additional classes in humanities, whereas bachelor's of science students continue to take specialized courses in the field. All students pay the same tuition.


Gwynedd Mercy UniversityGwynedd Valley, PA

Admissions Rate 68%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 55%
Online Enrollment N/A

The Gwynedd Mercy University, one of the top online colleges in Pennsylvania, offers student online programs through its School of Graduate and Professional Studies (GPS). The accelerated bachelor's in science nursing (ABSN) enables students with a bachelor's degree in another field to become a nurse. This accelerated program requires online nursing courses and on-site clinical rotations held at nearby healthcare facilities. The online nursing prerequisite courses provide students with courses like anatomy, physiology, and microbiology in five- to eight-week sessions. The online accelerated bachelor's of science in business administration (BSBA) allows students with previous college credit to complete their degree. Prospective students should have at least 46 transfer credits to apply to the BSBA program. The per-credit tuition stays the same for out-of-state students.


La Roche CollegePittsburgh, PA

Admissions Rate 95%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 78%
Graduation Rate 46%
Online Enrollment 10%

La Roche College, located in Pittsburgh, offers several online degree programs for working students that accommodate a busy schedule. The bachelor’s of science in leadership & administrative development gives students management skills to thrive in any workplace environment. This degree-completion program allows students with transfer credits to graduate in as little as 19 months. The Accelerated Program for Criminal Justice provides students with a bachelor's degree in a condensed eight-week format. Current or inactive law enforcement officers can receive 48 credits if they served for five years in the field. The bachelor's degree in medical imaging prepares students for a successful career in fields such as MRI, radiology, nuclear medicine, ultrasound, and radiography. Students applying for this major must complete an approved medical imaging hospital program before beginning coursework.

What Are the Best Online Community Colleges in Pennsylvania?

As you research online schools in Pennsylvania, you may have already discovered that community colleges offer programs in your desired major. Community colleges provide two-year programs that award associate degrees and lay the foundation for bachelor’s degree completion programs. Certificate programs are also commonly available at community colleges. Community college majors typically provide workforce training, so students can jumpstart their careers upon graduation. This is different than a university education, which requires more years of education before degrees are awarded, including undergraduate and graduate degrees.

The following list gathers the important details about Pennsylvania’s online community colleges. This will provide the critical information you need to determine which programs and online schools in PA are right for you.


Pennsylvania College of TechnologyWilliamsport, PA

Default Rate 11% Retention Rate 75% Graduation Rate 46% Online Enrollment 5%

Based in Williamsport, Penn College is one of the only online community colleges in Pennsylvania affiliated with Penn State. The school offers a wide selection of professionally-focused online degrees in fields such as applied health studies, automotive technology management, dental hygiene, emergency management technology, and health information management. All programs use a fully online format that requires zero campus visits, and Penn College offers the same in-state tuition rate to all students, regardless of location. The school delivers all courses asynchronously through the P.L.A.T.O. (Platform for Learning and Teaching Online) system, giving students the freedom to log in and complete assignments when it suits their schedule. Online learners receive significant academic support, including one-on-one attention from faculty, textbook services, academic advising, and online tutoring services.


Bucks County Community CollegeNewtown, PA

Default Rate 10% Retention Rate 70% Graduation Rate 16% Online Enrollment 11%

BCCC, one of the top online community colleges in Pennsylvania, is based in Newton, where it offers a wide selection of online associate degrees and certificates. Associate degree offerings include information science, fire science, emergency management, and secondary education; certificate options include bookkeeping, historic preservation, and social media and digital marketing. BCCC also offers several hybrid degrees that feature predominantly online coursework, including education, communication studies, and engineering. These programs present 95% of courses materials online and require only limited campus visits. Nearly all courses use an asynchronous format. BCCC offers a wide variety of resources for distance learners, including library services, academic advising, testing services, online tutoring, and bookstore services.


Montgomery County Community CollegeBlue Bell, PA

Default Rate 15% Retention Rate 63% Graduation Rate 20% Online Enrollment 13%

Located in Blue Bell, MCCC is home to more than 12,000 students, making it one of the largest online community colleges in Pennsylvania. The school offers more than 36 online degree and certificate programs, including unique choices such as education in the early years, gerontology, homeland security, mass media production, and organizational leadership. Most online classes are taught asynchronously through Blackboard, while others require occasional campus visits for class meetings or testing experiences. Most tests use MCCC's flexible proctoring system, which enables students to schedule exams at convenient times and locations. Online learners also receive support in the form of tutoring services, academic advising, and disability services.


Northampton Community CollegeBethlehem, PA

Default Rate 16% Retention Rate 63% Graduation Rate 20% Online Enrollment 14%

NCC, located in Bethlehem, offers many fully online associate programs, including sports management, special education-paraeducator training, liberal arts, and communication studies. The school also offers primarily online programs in business management, secondary education, and social work, each of which requires just one or two campus courses. Online courses are taught through an asynchronous format, but students must meet weekly deadlines. Some courses may require occasional synchronous components, for which online learners must log on at designated times, but NCC works to ensure scheduling is always convenient for working students.


Westmoreland County Community CollegeYoungwood, PA

Default Rate 14% Retention Rate 61% Graduation Rate 13% Online Enrollment 16%

Based in Youngwood, WCCC is one of the top online community colleges in Pennsylvania, offering dozens of fully online associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates. WCCC's associate programs focus mainly on business, with options such as administration, management, marketing, entrepreneurship, and finance. Certificate programs offer a more eclectic selection, including art business, forensic science, homeland security, and medical computer support. WCCC hosts a variety of online learning formats, with both synchronous and asynchronous courses available. Synchronous courses use video conferencing technology that enables students and faculty to interact in real time, mirroring a traditional classroom environment. While most out-of-state students are welcome to enroll in WCCC's online courses, state regulations prevent the college from offering distance education to residents of California, Florida, and Massachusetts.


Butler County Community CollegeButler, PA

Default Rate 13% Retention Rate 60% Graduation Rate 23% Online Enrollment 8%

BCCC's distance education students can earn a fully online associate of applied science in business management or a professional certificate in business skills, human resource management specialist, or Microsoft Office specialist. The college also offers several hybrid degrees that feature predominantly online courses, including marketing management, psychology, music, and criminology. These programs require occasional campus classroom sessions, but offer 80% or more of the coursework completely online. Most courses use an asynchronous delivery mode, though some professors may include synchronous components within courses. BCCC maintains reciprocity agreements with most U.S. states, allowing students who reside outside of Pennsylvania to enroll in online courses. However, due to certain restrictions, the school cannot offer online courses to residents of California or Massachusetts.


Manor CollegeJenkintown, PA

Default Rate 12% Retention Rate 55% Graduation Rate 27%

Located outside of Philadelphia, Manor is a two-year Catholic college affiliated with The Sisters of Saint Basil the Great. Serving around 1,000 students through both campus and distance education programs, the school offers fully online degrees in healthcare administration, business administration, and liberal arts. Students can also select from several hybrid degrees that mix campus and online courses. All distance education courses use an asynchronous format that gives online learners the flexibility to complete assignments on their schedule. Manor ranks among the most affordable online community colleges in Pennsylvania, and the school offers an assortment of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid opportunities. More than 97% of entering students receive some type of financial aid, and the school awards more than $500,000 in scholarships annually.


Delaware County Community CollegeMedia, PA

Default Rate 15% Retention Rate 61% Graduation Rate 16% Online Enrollment 10%

Based in the town of Media, DCCC began offering distance education courses in 1998, making it one of the oldest online community colleges in Pennsylvania. The school offers fully online associate programs in business administration, general business, global studies, and liberal arts. These degrees require no campus visits, though some courses may require distance learners to take proctored exams either through a remote online service or on the DCCC campus. The school also offers several primarily hybrid programs that deliver up to 90% of coursework online, including early childhood education, English, history, and sociology. Most courses use an asynchronous format. Some online degrees, such as education, may include field work requirements that students typically complete within their own community.


Lehigh Carbon Community CollegeSchnecksville, PA

Default Rate 14% Retention Rate 58% Graduation Rate 15% Online Enrollment 12%

The city of Schnecksville is home to LCCC, one of the top online community colleges in Pennsylvania. The school is a major proponent of distance education, with nearly half of the student body completing all courses online. The college offers 10 fully online associate degrees, including programs in education, human resources management, liberal arts, and paraprofessional/special education. LCCC also offers several degrees that feature limited campus components, such as health information technology, early childhood education, and psychology. The school has articulation agreements with prominent colleges around the state, offering seamless transfer pathways to institutions such as Drexel University, Temple University, and several members of the Penn State system. LCCC also offers a wide selection of support services and resources to online students, including disability services, a testing center, and tutoring services.


Luzerne County Community CollegeNanticoke, PA

Default Rate 12% Retention Rate 54% Graduation Rate 19% Online Enrollment 9%

Along with a main campus in Nanticoke, LCCC maintains 11 satellite centers across the state and a significant distance education program, making it one of the largest online community colleges in Pennsylvania. The school offers online associate degrees in subjects such as computer information systems, medical office specialist, office information technology, and web and mobile development technology. Programs provide at least 80% of the coursework online and require limited campus visits. LCCC is a proponent of experiential learning, and the school hosts a prior learning program that allows students to gain credit for life experiences and other professional training. The school offers several pathways for applicants to earn prior learning credit, including a portfolio demonstrating relevant work experience, credit examinations, proof of professional certifications, and proof of military training or education.

Education Trends in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania spends significantly less on each of its full-time college students than the average U.S. state. It also dedicates 2.9% of its tax revenue toward higher education, which is half as much as the national average. While this might indicate that Pennsylvania places a lower priority on education, it is difficult to isolate the variables that influence the quality and accessibility of education in each state. Despite lower funding, educational attainment of Pennsylvania residents is comparable to other states, with 17.4% of adults possessing a bachelor’s degree.

  Pennsylvania United States
Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census
Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student $3,758 $6,954
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 2.9% 5.8%
Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree 7.9% 8.1%
Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor’s degree 17.4% 18.5%
Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher 11.2% 11.2%

Paying for College in Pennsylvania

When researching traditional and online schools in Pennsylvania, itemize the costs for each program as thoroughly as possible. In addition to tuition and books, find out if there are any program or administrative fees. If you plan to live on-campus or nearby, factor in your room and board along with any transportation costs. While you might score some scholarships and grants to help pay for school, you should first identify the total costs for each college on your list before making a decision.

Tuition Prices

Attending a public two-year college in Pennsylvania is somewhat less affordable than in other U.S. states. The same is true for public four-year colleges, with tuition and fees costing over $4,000 more than the average U.S. school. There are many hidden costs when attending college, so remember to identify all of them — including books, facility, and laboratory costs — along with living expenses when researching tuition prices.

Financial Aid

Regardless of where you plan to attend college, you should research and apply for financial aid. As a first step, you should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to know if you qualify for federal financial aid, which includes loans, grants, and work-study awards. Many states, colleges, and private institutions also require you to fill out the FAFSA to determine whether you qualify for need-based financial aid. Since they don’t need to be repaid, grants and scholarships should be given the highest priority. If you need to accept loans, be sure to prioritize low-interest and subsidized federal loans before you resort to private lenders, who tend to charge higher interest rates.

Cost for Online Programs in Pennsylvania

If you decide to attend one of the many online colleges in PA, the same financial aid options explained above apply to you. You should still complete the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for financial aid, whether from the federal government, states, universities, or private institutions. As an online student, you’ll generally find that your total costs are comparable to, or lower than, most on-campus programs. You will also save money on some fees, and there will be no costs associated with transportation or expensive on-campus housing.

Cost of Living by Region

The cost of college varies greatly depending on where a school is located. When considering your options, be sure to research the cost of living in cities where you’re considering going to school. If you’re planning to live in an apartment off-campus, check the median rents for your area. These expenses add a significant amount to your total college costs. Understanding living expenses will also help you decide where to pursue a career after you graduate. The table below shows housing costs in Pennsylvania’s major cities and nearby alternatives.

Scholarships for Pennsylvania College Students

PATH Program

$2,500; must be enrolled in a Pennsylvania postsecondary institution, have received a Pennsylvania State Grant, and be nominated by a PATH partner.

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American Association of University Women (AAUW) Carlisle Branch

$1,500; must be a female resident of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania for a minimum of one year and have completed at least one year of college.

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Beulah Frey Environmental Scholarship

$1,000; must be a graduating high school student from Allegheny, Armstrong, south Butler, Beaver, North Fayette, Northeast Washington, or Westmoreland County in Pennsylvania.

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Bradford-Sullivan Forest Landowners' Association Scholarship

$1,000; must be a resident of Bradford or Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, and be accepted into a forestry, agriculture, environmental major, or related program.

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Hope Through Learning Award

$2,500; must be a resident of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, be 24 years old or younger, be a high school graduate or have a GED, and have experienced homelessness as a youth.

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M. Verna Butterer Educational Trust

$10,000 as a combination scholarship and interest free loan; must be a U.S. citizen and at least a two-year resident of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

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Martha M. Dohner Memorial Scholarship

$1,000; must be a female resident of Dauphin or Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, have completed a minimum of 15 undergraduate college credits, and have a 3.25 GPA.

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Mary Lou McDowell Memorial Scholarship

$1,000; must be a female resident of Dauphin or Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, have completed a minimum of 15 undergraduate college credits, and have a 3.25 GPA.

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National Association of Asian American Professionals Philadelphia's Chapter Scholarship

$1,000; must be a high school senior or currently in college, be Asian-American, and a resident of Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, or Bucks, Pennsylvania.

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Northern Tier Hardwood Association Community Forests Scholarship

$1,500; must be a high school senior and resident of Bradford, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wayne, or Wyoming County in Pennsylvania, and be accepted into a forestry, arboriculture, or related program.

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Pennsylvania Chafee Education and Training Grant Program

varies each year; must be a Pennsylvania resident and in foster care or adopted through it after age 16, and be eligible for services from the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program.

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Pennsylvania Engineering Foundation Scholarships

$1,000; must be a high school senior with at least a 3.6 GPA and 1300 Reading/Math score on the SAT, and entering an engineering program.

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Pennsylvania Postsecondary Educational Gratuity Program

Varies, as it is a fee waiver after other scholarships and grants have been applied; must be a Pennsylvania resident, and child of a police officer, firefighter, ambulance rescue, National Guard member, or military service member who died performing their job.

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Pennsylvania State Grant Program

Varies, as it is a grant program; must be a Pennsylvania resident and not in default on an education loan, be enrolled in a program requiring 50% classroom instruction time, and be of sound character.

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Society of Women Engineers - Lehigh Valley Section

$5,000; must be a female high school senior entering an engineering program accredited by ABET, and a resident of one of the more than 20 Pennsylvania counties with zip codes starting with 177-187 and 195-196.

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The Jack E. Barger, Sr., Memorial Nursing Scholarship Fund

$1,000; must be an undergraduate nursing student, Pennsylvania resident, and a U.S. veteran or active duty service member, or the spouse or child of one.

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The Luther and Mary Ida Vandross Scholarship

$10,000; must be a resident of Pennsylvania, pursuing an undergraduate degree at a historically black college or university, be in the third, fourth, or fifth years, and have a minimum GPA of 2.5.

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D. Colman Witte Scholarship Fund

$1,000-$5,000; must be pursuing an art, interior design, or architecture program in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania college or university, and have a minimum GPA of 2.75.

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The Pittsburgh Promise Scholarship

$30,000; must be a resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and have attended all four years of public high school in the city, have at least 90% attendance record, have a minimum GPA of 2.5, and be entering a postsecondary institution in Pennsylvania.

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John Apple Swim Fund

$1,000; must be a high school senior in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and entering a college swimming program.

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Can All Scholarships Be Used for Online Programs?

Scholarship awards can be applied to either online or traditional, on-campus degree programs. If you pursue a degree through online colleges in PA, any scholarships you receive are applicable. However, as with every scholarship application, remember to review all requirements. There may be additional ones for online degree programs, depending on the organization providing the funding.

Employment Outlook in Pennsylvania

If you plan to pursue a career in-state after attending college or an online school in Pennsylvania, it’s important to research the employment landscape. Currently, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is slightly higher than the national average, but it’s annual mean wage is close to the average. There are many job opportunities in the educational and health care sectors, which share the top two spots for Pennsylvania’s leading industries. With hundreds of colleges and universities, including some of the best ranked medical programs in the country, it’s clear why this is the case. Pennsylvania also has many municipal and federal government jobs available, along with business and professional services. The following information offers additional statistics about the state’s job outlook.

  Pennsylvania United States
Source: BLS and BLS
Unemployment Rate, May 2017 5.0 4.3%
Annual Mean Wage, May 2016 $47,540 $49,630

Top Employers and Industries in Pennsylvania

Top Industries in Pennsylvania

  • Educational and Health Services: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) considers this a “supersector” because of the size and scope of these service industries. This includes all teaching, instruction, and support services, along with all medical, social assistance, and hospital jobs.
  • Trade, Transportation, and Utilities: This includes jobs in merchandise wholesaling, warehousing, transportation services, and utility services (such as gas, electric, and sewer).
  • Professional and Business Services: This other BLS-described supersector is service-providing and encompasses all professional, technical, business, management, and administrative jobs and careers. Examples include legal, accounting, IT, scientific research, and advertising positions.


Top Employers in Pennsylvania

  • Wal-Mart Associates, Inc.: 48,000 +/- employees
  • Trustees of the University of PA: 39,126 (includes UPenn Health System) employees
  • City of Philadelphia: 25,000+

Source: PA.gov, Newsmax, Upenn.edu, Phila.gov

Accreditation for Colleges in Pennsylvania

When researching your options for online colleges in PA, remember to check for a school’s accreditation. Accreditation is a rigorous process schools undergo to ensure they meet certain educational standards. Regional accreditation is the most widely recognized and coveted form of accreditation. There are six regional accrediting organizations that are approved by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), including the Middle States Commission on Higher Education that includes Pennsylvania. College accreditation may be required in the workforce for your specific career path, and may also be necessary for certain student loans and scholarships.

Regional accreditation is the most widely recognized and coveted form of accreditation..

Online programs will be accredited by organizations approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which oversees the national and regional accreditation process. National accreditation is also valuable, and is typically awarded to colleges that have workforce-training programs. However, some for-profit online colleges are nationally accredited because they could not be approved by regional accreditation bodies. You can obtain a better understanding about online schools in PA by checking which national accreditation bodies have approved them, and by reviewing any past accreditations.

Resources for Students in Pennsylvania

  • Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency: This agency offers student financial aid planning and services, including loan guarantees and servicing. It also provides college planning education and various tools and services, including a loan repayment calculator.
  • Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center: This organization provides information, resources, and instructions for planning and executing a successful college transfer within these Pennsylvania community colleges, colleges, and universities.
  • Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education: This state administrative body oversees 14 state universities, which includes 105,000 students and 12,000 faculty and staff members. Its website also provides a number of resources, including a fact center with 10 education-related modules.
  • Pennsylvania Department of Education: This department approves the budgets of the entire state system and community colleges. It also provides specialty funding to state colleges and universities, such as the “Governor’s It’s On Us PA Grant Program.”
  • Education Week: Pennsylvania: This online resource provides all the latest news on education from around the state, including developments in the state’s capital relating to education bills and funding.
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