A Guide to Online Colleges in Virginia

Updated May 10, 2021 | BestCollegeReviews.org Staff

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Welcome to Virginia! Virginia is known as the Old Dominion State as it was the first piece of land inhabited by the colonials from England. From east to west Virginian geography is varied and beautiful. From the Chesapeake bay and beaches of Virginia to the Piedmont region all the way to highest points of the Appalachian mountains, Virginia is truly a state to explore. Whether taking in the history in Fairfax, colonial Williamsburg or Arlington, or winding through the Blue Ridge Mountains or hopping on a train for a short journey to the nation’s capitol, Virginia has a lifetime of treasures to explore. Virginia is also home to the College of William and Mary, James Madison, and Virginia Tech amongst other top schools. While one large perk of online education is the ability to connect to your classroom from anywhere, there are a number of exciting reasons students prefer to obtain degrees from their state of residence.

Featured Online Schools

In-state tuition is often applied to public schools offering online programs. Many online programs require some face-to-face time, or more numerous support services at their brick and mortar locations. Intensive study experiences–often on the weekends or in several week long bouts–enable many online students to accelerate their time until graduation. And students looking at online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees where degrees can be taken partially, or mostly online). Finally, one of the most common stipulations in scholarships is that students be from a certain state or region, often more funds are available to students seeking degrees in-state.

There are a number of public schools offering online courses in Virginia. Our top ranked include Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA Tech) offering 17 online master’s degrees including environmental sciences engineering, education computer engineering, political science and others, George Mason offers 4 bachelor’s degrees in applied information technology, health wellness and social services, nursing, and technology and innovation and 9 master’s degrees including applied behavior analysis, education leadership and others. Then take Old Dominion University a school offering 48 degree programs online, six of which are doctor’s degrees. Other public schools with noteworthy programs online programs include Virginia Commonwealth University, Marshall University, Mountain Empire Community College, Southside Virginia Community College, and Eastern Shore Community College.

Our top-ranked private colleges in Virginia include Liberty University a private university offering comprehensive programming online including 12 associate’s, 15 bachelor’s, 19 masters, and 17 doctoral degrees totally. That’s an impressive 63 degrees with options like an associate’s of arts in religion, a bachelor of science in business administration, a master of arts in ethnomusicology, or a doctor of philosophy in counseling just to name a few. In addition to Liberty University other private schools that made our top ranking include Averett University, Bluefield College, Regent University, and Wheeling Jesuit University. Notably, Regent University offers 43 degrees online from an associates all the way through to doctoral programs.

In 2015-16 the average published tuition prices for Virginia four-year universities was $11,819 that’s $2,409 over the national average for public schools. University of Virginia costs close to that and is ranked number 24 according to the US News and World Report Rankings! A non-Virginian would pay $40,248 per year meaning in-state participants receive nearly all of their education at UVA for the price of one year out-of-state. In addition, when taking into account the school with the most offerings, that is Liberty University, offering 68 degrees, Liberty tuition is relatively inexpensive for a private institution costing $21,000 for tuition and fees compared to $32,405 for your average private institution’s tuitions and fees. Not to mention, saving on room and board means adding another $40,000 to your pocket. There’s something to be said of staying in-state.

Virginia Beach offers a classic style beach town with a resort feel and is home to the first landing cross, where English settlers first landed in 1607. Virginia beach is home to the Cape Henry Lighthouse the very first lighthouse built by the federal government in 1792, Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science center which is the largest aquarium in America. Virginia Beach is also home to many state parks and wildlife refuges and a nightlife filled with theaters, restaurants and much more. Virginia Beach is also home to Regent University. Regent University is a private university offering 43 online programs including 13 doctoral, 16 master's, seven bachelor's and seven associate’s degrees. Love your view of the Chesapeake and the Atlantic? You don’t have to leave it when pursuing an online degree from Regent.

Norfolk, Virginia may fist be known as a Navy town (and the oldest Navy port at that) and it is a Navy town that also houses world-class museums, an opera, ballet, symphony and bustling arts community with historic homes, tree-lines streets and local boutiques. This town is quaint and connected by car, train or boat taxi. The West Freemason Area historic district and Ghent historic neighborhood are must-sees. Connect yourself with history while blazing the Cannonball Trail or take in the gothic revivalist architecture in the form of old cathedrals in Ghent. If you love gardens, there’s a spot for you at the Hermitage Museum and Gardens as well as Norfolk Botanical Gardens and the Pagoda and Oriental Garden. Norfolk is also home to the growing university Old Dominion University. Old Dominion University is a fantastic choice for online education in that it provides 48 degrees online including six doctoral degrees, 19 master’s, and 23 bachelor’s degrees.

Chesapeake Virginia as you may have guessed is located near the Chesapeake Bay and as such is an outdoor recreation paradise. Chesapeake, Virginia is known for golf, fishing, biking hiking, kayaking and all sorts of outdoor exploring. On top of the fantastic natural beauty like so many parts of Virginia, Chesapeake is seeped in American history. Colonial settlers arrived circa 1620, and as such there are many historic towns that were built in this area. Many historic battles were fought here, and this area is ripe with war reenacting and the like. Check out the Virginia Civil War Trails and the museums that accompany it. The city of Chesapeake is nestled below Portsmouth and Norfolk and South West of Virginia Beach conveniently close to schools like Regent University a private school offering over 40 online programs and Old Dominion University which offers nearly 50 programs. Between the two of them, there’s a comprehensive breadth of online information right from the comfort of your home.

Richmond, Virginia is the capital city of Virginia and rich with history. The city is filled as you may imagine with museums, monuments, and the arts that reflect this city’s profound history. Richmond is home to Patrick Henry's “give me liberty or give me death,” and Richmond served as the capital of the confederate during the American Civil War. Now Richmond boasts a new revolution, that is of crafty beverages, a rich creative food culture, and fantastic festivals like the Richmond Folk Festival, International Poe Festival, the Maker Festival amongst others. The city of Richmond is a bustling town with a lot to offer. With new restaurants, art spaces and parks it’s no wonder an online program from within the state makes sense. There are a number of online opportunities at Virginia Commonwealth University including two bachelor’s, 13 master’s and six doctoral programs or check out any of the online associate’s degrees at J Sergeant Reynolds Community College.

Virginia Beach

Population: 450,980
Cost of Living: 98.6%
Top Industries: public administration, accommodation, food service, construction
Local Online Degrees: 43


Population: 246,139
Cost of Living: 98.1%
Top Industries: public administration, retail, construction, accommodation and food services
Local Online Degrees: 48


Population: 230,571
Cost of Living: 97.9%
Top Industries: manufacturing, public admnistration, retail, construction
Local Online Degrees: 0


Population: 214,114
Cost of Living: 94.8%
Top Industries: accommocation and food services, health care and social assistance, professional, scientific and technical services
Local Online Degrees: 26

New Port News

Population: 182,965
Cost of Living: 97.1%
Top Industries: manufacturing, retail trade, construction, public adminstration
Local Online Degrees: 0


Population: 148,892
Cost of Living: 139.4%
Top Industries: professional, scientific and technical services, public administration, accomodation and food services
Local Online Degrees: 0


Population: 136,699
Cost of Living: 97.9%
Top Industries: manufacturing, retail trade, public administration, construction
Local Online Degrees: 0


Population: 98,465
Cost of Living: 87.3%
Top Industries: manufacturing, accommodation and food service, retail trade, healthcare and social assistance
Local Online Degrees: 0


Population: 96,004
Cost of Living: 97.3%
Top Industries: public administration, manufacturing, construction, accommodation and food services
Local Online Degrees: 0

The Best Online Colleges in Virginia

1. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Online Programs: 17
Type: Public

Virginia Tech is our number one choice for online programs in Virginia. Virginia Tech is in the top 10 percent among the other 3,500 of the world’s best universities according to QS World University Rankings and among the best “Global Universities” according to US News. If those rankings don’t speak for themselves the Peace Corps states that Virginia Tech is among the top volunteer-producing universities. This school has academic rigor and heart to go with it. Virginia Tech offers 17 online master’s degree programs including areas like Art and Technical Education, Political Science, Engineering Administration, Ocean Engineering and many others. Virginia Tech is located in Blacksburg, Virginia which is a quaint town with a lot of history, culture and community. Blacksburg has even been listed as one of the best place to raise kids according to Businessweek. Busy professionals or parents can live where they study and do so from the convenience of their homes.

2. Virginia Commonwealth University

Online Programs: 19
Type: Public

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is one of our top picks due to its high ranking and accessibility. US News ranked VCU as one of the best schools for graduate and professional programs. VCU is located in Richmond Virginia, a bustling up-and-coming culinary and art center in the south. Richmond has festivals, crafty culinary offerings, and endless activities for families and professionals. VCU also offers a good variety of high-quality online programs. Most are one hundred percent online and a few are hybrid programs (requiring some time on campus as well as online). VCU provides two bachelor’s, 13 master’s, and four doctoral programs online. Some notable programs include a doctoral program in occupational therapy, a master of science in addiction studies, a post-baccalaureate graduate certificate in aging studies, a bachelor of science in nursing, and many others. VCU provides great online support through blackboard, their peer writing center, and the Learning Center.

3. George Mason University

Online Programs: 13
Type: Public

George Mason University (Mason) is located in Fairfax, Virginia in the area known as northern Virginia just outside of the nation’s capitol. Mason has ranked highly for innovation according to US News and prides itself on it’s flexibility and adaptability in today’s world of online education. George Mason University is also the largest school for enrollment in Virginia and has a number of fantastic online programs. George Mason offers four bachelor’s degrees including a Bachelor of Science in Nursing among others and nine master’s degrees one of which is a Master of Special Education in Applied Behavior Analysis. Mason’s proximity to the nation’s capitol mean that night clubs, fine dining, museums, art and monuments are all within reach of this fantastic school. No need to forgo a life in the capitol or rearrange your family life or career when enrolled in one of Mason’s online degree programs.

4. Liberty University

Online Programs: 63
Type: Private

Liberty University is a liberal arts institution that enrolls over 94,000 online students. US News ranked Liberty University as one of the best colleges for Veterans, and in the top 100 for best online bachelor’s programs, online MBA programs, online graduate criminal justice programs as well as best graduate nursing programs. Liberty University is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is one of the top 50 online colleges with the “highest student satisfaction” according to OnlineCollegePlan.com. Liberty also offers an impressive 63 degree programs online including 12 associate's, 15 bachelor’s, 19 master’s, and 17 doctoral degree programs. Liberty University is located in Lynchburg, Virginia among the rolling hills and in close proximity to Virginia’s wine regions.

5. Averett University-Non-Traditional Programs

Online Programs: 9
Type: Private

Averett University is a non-profit college located in Danville, Virginia. Averett boasts a low faculty to student ratio of 14:1. Averett University is listed as one of the top best liberal arts colleges of the south and the top ten college for veterans according to US News. In 2016 Victory Media also ranked Averett highly as a Military Friendly School. Averett University’s online programs are flexible. You can log on to your coursework at any time. Averett is well connected with their faculty through discussions, forums, and email. Averett University offers online programs in business, nursing, education, leadership, and criminal justice. There are a total of nine programs available online; one associate’s degree; three bachelor’s degrees, including one in nursing; five master’s degrees, including degrees in education and business administration among others. Averett is an affordable choice for military personnel, professionals or anyone looking to further their education through online learning.

6. Bluefield College

Online Programs: 12
Type: Private

Bluefield University is a Christian liberal arts college located in Bluefield, Virginia. Bluefield is located in the Appalachian Mountains and surrounded by natural beauty. Students take part by hiking, skiing, white-water rafting, rock-climbing, and canoeing. Bluefield University also has locations in Roanoke and Richmond. Bluefield is accredited to offer online programming through the Southern Association of Colleges Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Bluefield offers 11 bachelor’s degrees in fields such as communication, business administration, or criminal justice among others and a master of arts in education. For the outdoorsman or anyone located in Southeast, Virginia Bluefield provides affordable, education right in the ridges of the Appalachian mountains.

7. Old Dominion University

Online Programs: 48
Type: Public

Old Dominion University is a public and coeducational university located in Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk is home to one of the largest naval stations. and is situated in between the Chesapeake Bay and the Elizabeth River. In addition to the surrounding natural beauty, Norfolk is filled with quaint historic neighborhoods notably Ghent. Norfolk affords Old Dominion students a breadth of opportunity and especially where online coursework is concerned. Old Dominion offers an impressive 48 degree programs including 23 bachelor’s degrees, 19 master’s degrees and six doctoral programs! Notably, Old Dominion is one of the top Graduate schools for education according to the US New and boasts top ranked “outstanding” faculty. The online programming is varied everything from early childhood education to professional writing. Arts and applied sciences an so much more are accessible right from your home computer. For convenient, flexible and varied online education in beautiful surroundings, it doesn’t get much better than Old Dominion.

8. Regent University

Online Programs: 43
Type: Private

Regent University is a private research university located in Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach is nestled in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean and consists of miles of waterfront properties. Regent students enjoy the beaches, and quaint sleepy towns such as colonial Williamsburg and the like. In addition to beaches, and historic neighborhoods, Regent students are eligible to be apart of one of the top 20 best online bachelor’s programs according to the US News and also the top 15 Bachelor’s programs for veterans. Regent’s professional schools are some of the best as well as Regent University School of Law’s faculty were recognized as the top 10 by the Princeton Review. Regent offers 43 online programs 7 associate’s degrees 7 bachelor’s including a BS in Healthcare Management, several Master’s degrees in education and 13 doctoral programs.

9. Mountain Empire Community College

Online Programs: 22
Type: Public

Mountain Empire Community College is a two-year comprehensive college that currently serves students in Lee, Scott, Wise, and Dickenson Counties as well as the City of Norton. What’s unique about this community college is the online programming. Through connection with a number of universities across the state of Virginia and the Virginia Community College System you can access associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs completely online. There are 22 programs available online and on offer through Mountain Empire Community College. 9 of which are associates, 7 bachelor’s, 5 master’s and even one doctoral program. Mountain Empire Community College also offers a number of programs for non-traditional learners looking for gainful employment. In addition to their associate’s degree programs there are a number of certificates for targeted learners looking for areas of specialization in applied fields.

10. Southside Virginia Community College

Online Programs: 21
Type: Public

Southside Virginia Community College is one of 23 colleges connected through the Virginia Community College System. Southside Virginia Community College has two main campuses as well as a number of off-campus sites and offers affordable online education. The distance learning program is varied for multiple learning styles and includes Blackboard, video conferencing, or hybrid formatting where 50% of programming is offered online and the other 50% is offered through taught programs. Southside provides a number of new career opportunities and career expansions through their online learning. Southside offers 21 online associate’s degrees including an AA in Music, Associate of Applied Science in Graphic Design, Interior design and photography as well as an associate in fine arts and music. In addition to the fine arts Southside offers programs in paralegal studies, education and business administration just to name a few. There is literally something for all types of learns at his flexible and affordable institution.

11. Eastern Shore Community College

Online Programs: 19
Type: Public

Eastern Shore Community College is part of the Virginia Community College System and is located in Melfa, Virginia. Melfa is part of the eastern shore of Virginia. Eastern Shore Community College has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award the associate degree. In addition to associate’s degrees Eastern Shore Community College offers career study certificate programs. Online programming is even further expanded. Eastern Shore Community College offers 8 online associate’s degrees, 5 bachelor’s and 6 master’s degrees. Eastern Shore Community College has a strong mission to improve and enhance the quality of life for the eastern shore community in Virginia. For those who are looking to further their education and remain part of this coastal community of Virginia, Eastern Shore Community College has a great variety of online coursework that works well within a busy schedule.

12. Eastern Mennonite University

Online Programs: 3
Type: Private

Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) is a private liberal arts university located in the Shenandoah Valley. The Shenandoah Valley is situated between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Ridge-and-Valley section of the Appalachian mountains. Students enjoy hiking, biking (especially mountain biking), canoeing, and rock-climbing as well as close proximity to Washington DC. Harrisonburg is nearby with plenty of coffee shops, restaurants and more. It’s no wonder leaving town isn’t high on your radar. For even more convenience, Eastern Mennonite University provides three high-quality Master’s degrees online in Leadership and Management and Nursing.

13. James Madison University

Online Programs: 2
Type: Public

James Madison University is a public coeducational research university that ranks highly for value- that is low cost and high graduation rates and “impressive balance” according to the Princeton Review. Meaning you are maximizing every dollar spent towards advancing your career. US News ranks James Madison University as the number 2 public school in the South. James Madison is also located in the Shenandoah Valley outside of Harrisonburg. Students have access to a myriad of outdoor amenities as well as Washington DC. James Madison provides a bachelor’s and a master’s degree completely online.

14. University of Virginia-Main Campus

Online Programs: 1
Type: Public

The University of Virginia (UVA) is Virginia’s flagship and research university. UVA is a public university known for its research. It’s classification come from the Carnegie Foundation which lists UVA as a Research University with Very High Research. UVA is also a UNESCO world heritage site and is well-known for its beautiful college grounds. In addition to its phenomenal research qualities and is natural and historical beauty, the US News ranks UVA 26th overall and 3rd among public universities. Its law school is ranked 8th over all and tied for first among public universities, 10th in the research category. If academic rigor, research and beauty still aren’t enough to convince you, then how about preparation for a career? UVA ranks 9th overall of career readiness and 1st for public universities according to Business Insider. UVA is one of the best public schools in the nation, has some of the best professors, and is a fantastic value. Check out their Bachelor of Professional Studies in Healthy Science Management for the online UVA experience.

15. Paul D Camp Community College

Online Programs: 10
Type: Public

Paul D Camp Community College is located in Franklin, Virginia and is part of the Virginia Community College System. PDCCC offers over 69 programs and major areas of study including health science, technology, business management and others. Franklin Virginia is located in the Southeastern part of Virginia near Isle of Wight County, Virginia Beach, Norfolks, and Newport-News and borders North Carolina. This students at Paul D Camp Community College have access to all of the beach amenities of the region as well as the quaint historic surrounding neighborhoods and cities. Paul D Camp Community College also offers 5 associate’s and 5 bachelor’s degrees all completely online in areas like criminal justice, electrical engineering, nursing and many others.

Monitoring the accreditation of a university you are interested in attending is incredibly important. Accreditation ensures your credits can transfer that you can receive Federal financial aid, and most importantly that certain standards of educational quality are during your schooling. The highest accreditation standard for most programs in the United States is provided by regional accreditation agencies. The regional accrediting agency for Virginia is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Making sure that a University you're hoping to attend is regionally accredited — or accredited by a real and respected accrediting agency — is one of the most important choices you can make in ensuring the quality of your education.

Three Steps for Securing Financial Aid

  • Submit your FAFSA.
  • Check to see if additional forms are needed at your university of choice.
  • Search and apply for private scholarships.

Through the previous three steps most students find themselves offered some sort of federal grant, work study, private grant, scholarship, or stipend.

Great Virginia Higher Education Resources

  • For a vast range of niche scholarship opportunities head here.
  • If you’re heading to the University of Virginia and looking to cover those extra fees. UVA has got you covered here.
  • Many online offerings come through the 23 Virginia Community Colleges System. For more information about scholarship information at Virginia CC's, check out their site here.
  • Heading to UVa? Congratulations! Now hear from your peer about everything from the most engaging classes to foods for student survival here.
  • Need to get accepted? Look! Virginia Tech is number 2 for the 50 best colleges with higher acceptance rates.
  • Looking for the best business school in your state? You’re in luck, Virginia has several, check them out here
  • Heading into DC and don’t want to bring a car? Here’s how…
  • Virginia is for Lovers and especially if you love wildlife. Find out more about the outdoors in VA here.
  • In Virginia you’re part of one of the most historic mountain ranges in the country find your perfect trail here.
  • Virginia is considered to be the Old Dominion State for a reason. Find out more about Virginia’s history and go experience it for your self. Find more info here.
  • What’s a "Saltwater Cowboy"? Find the answer to this and many other fun facts about Virginia here.
  • Did you know that according to Tripadvisor, Chincoteague island is listed as number 8 of the top 10 Islands in the US. Find out more about this beautiful island here.

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