Nicknamed “The Mountain State” for the Appalachian Mountains, and its industrious Mountaineers, West Virginia is classified as a Southern state. Though to outsiders looking in, this state is better described through its folk culture. Folk culture is the expression of a particular people group and encompasses everything about its people including their traditions, tales, jokes, and current customs. West Virginia is one of the richest remaining cultures in the U.S. that still preserves folk traditions of days past, particularly where bluegrass, otherwise known as mountain music or “old-time” music, is concerned. Mountain Music Trail is an internationally recognized trail that makes its way along Eastern West Virginia from Monroe to Tucker through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Today the Smithsonian and other institutes strive to capture and preserve what is an old, ongoing American tradition. The livelihoods of its people preserve and conserve the unique atmosphere of this incredible mountain range and the best way to experience it is to join right in. But West Virginia is more than bluegrass and coal mines. It was an important throughway point for the Baltimore Ohio Railroad and an older entryway into Western development. It’s largest cities remain historic and intact and continue to celebrate the industries of the past as well as pave the way for growth and continual production. Towns like Morgantown, home of West Virginia University, Huntington, and the state’s capital, Charleston, lead West Virginians into the future while cherishing their culturally rich past. If the best way to experience West Virginia is by partaking then grab a pair of drum sticks, a washboard or a fiddle and take the plunge into all of the unique experiences West Virginia has to offer.
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. Students looking at online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees that 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.
Featured Online Schools
Top Public Schools
Many of the top public schools in West Virginia offer online programs of study ranging from an associate to a doctoral degree. West Virginia University offers 17 online programs in a broad range of fields from the bachelor’s to doctorate including a bachelor’s in nursing, a master’s in coaching education, and a doctorate of nursing practice. Marshall University offers 13 degrees online including a bachelor’s in geography, and an M.A. in Secondary Education among others. There are several associate degree options also available completely online in liberal arts, business, and technical/career fields. Some of the best include Mountwest Community and Technical College as well as West Virginia Junior College.
Top Private Schools
The two private schools that offer online programs are Wheeling Jesuit University and Bethany College. Wheeling Jesuit offers four master’s degrees in leadership and nursing and Bethany College offers three bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, interdisciplinary leadership, and business management.
How to Become a Resident
West Virginia requires a full “gap year.” Meaning, To qualify as a resident the state of West Virginia requires a “one year rule” or 12 continuous months of physical presence in West Virginia that does not include studying. West Virginia is certainly one of the more difficult places to achieve in-state status. Though there may be some variation depending on the university or individual circumstance, a likely candidate must demonstrate the following criteria. They must have intentions of being a permanent resident of West Virginia and have no ties to other states regarding voter status, domicile etc. They must be able to spend a full “gap year” not attending school during which they are gainfully employed in West Virginia for at least 30 hours per week and remain in the state of West Virginia with limited periods of absence, and be financially independent.
In 2015-16 the average published tuition prices for West Virginia four-year universities was $5,169 for in-state tuition that’s about $3,800 below the national average for public schools. Some of the highest value schools are also our top picks for online options. West Virginia University is one of the top schools in the region and the tuition rates are just over $7,900 for in-state tuition. Out-of-Staters will pay three times the price at $22,488. Marshall University’s annual tuition is $6,814 and another highly ranked regional university. Again, those out of state pay over $15,000 for tuition. Additionally, those studying online, saving $30,000 in room and board costs. There’s something to be said for staying in-state.
Capital city Charleston is the largest city in West Virginia and is located between the Elk and Kanawha Rivers. Known in the past for its natural resources like salt, natural gas, and coal, today Charleston remains an important economic and cultural contributer to Appalachia. Walk along the Kanawha river, take a picnic lunch Davis Park to hear free live music, and finish your night in the East End — a funky urban eclectic neighborhood known for dining and night life. When it’s time for an escape “Charlie West” is just 7 miles outside of Kanawha State Forest. The Kanawha State Forest is over 9,000 acres of forest known for wildflowers and birdwatching as well as provides ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and cross country skiing. This beloved forest is a favorite recreational spot for all people in West Virginia.
Huntington is a busy port town located on the Ohio River at the Mouth of the Guyandotte River and is the largest city in Tri-State area of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. Due to is river and rail transport Huntington remains an important and diverse economy today. Also home to Marshall University, Huntington has a rich academic culture as well. This walkable city offers an excellent restaurant and music scene as well as several museums that pay homage to this city’s traditions — like the Heritage Farm Museum and Village, the Museum of Radio and Technology, the Touma Medical Museum and the Huntington Museum of Art. In addition to including 19th and 20th century American and European paintings, this museum is also offers a reflection of local culture with its inclusion of Appalachian folk art and flint firearms. For the outdoor enthusiast there are trails for biking all across the city, scenic train rides, and the popular Pullman Square with its summer concert series. Local music features Irish music and bluegrass every Saturday night at the Mountaineer Opry House that hosts local and national bluegrass musicians.
Originally known as Newport, Parkersburg is where the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad made its crossing on the particularly important Parkersburg Bridge CSX. Parkersburg originally carved its niche in the oil and gas industry. Manufacturing and construction remain among the city’s top industries. Today Parkersburg is home to the Oil and Gas Museum that details the oil and gas industry in West Virginia and its effects on local wealth and culture. For locals seeking recreational activities, Blennerhassett Island is a popular destination with an $8 Sternwheeler ride and $2 museum entry fee that includes 3 floors of archaeological and historic exhibits. Or, simply take a picnic, go biking, or walk the nature trails. The Ohio river is a natural destination for locals who love boating, kayaking and jet skiing. Homes are historic in Parkersburg which containsvthe largest historic district in West Virginia. In addition to quaint residences, the streets are filled with high quality restaurants and places to shop. With a low cost of living, low crime rate and a great education system it’s no wonder its residents are proud to call Parkersburg home.
Morgantown is situated along the banks of the Monongahela River, and according to Forbes is considered to be one of the best small cities in America for its constant population growth, job growth and big city amenities while maintaining a small town feel. It’s also home to West Virginia University (WVU) one of the best public schools in the nation according to U.S. News. There are hundreds of things to do for all walks of life in this small town with a big city feel. The Arboretum located at WVU with its 45 flower species and 70 bird species along with 91 beautiful acres of forest and 3.5 miles of trails for hiking beg exploration. Some notable museums include the Morgantown Glass Museum which displays objects that were made in former factories in Morgantown. The Riverfront Museum includes a glassworking studio, while Scott’s Run Museum is dedicated to emphasizing the importance of coal and the coal boom to the area. For more outdoor adventures there are historical guided tours taken by way of kayak via Adventures on Magic River, or trek along the converted B&O railroad on the Caperton, Decker’s Creek, and the Mon River Trail.
Cost of Living: 86.8%
Top Industries: Professional scientific and technical services, healthcare, retail trade, public administration
Local Online Degrees: 2
Cost of Living: 84%
Top Industries: Healthcare and social assistance, retail and trade, educational services, accomodation and food services
Local Online Degrees: 2
Cost of Living: 92%
Top Industries: Manufacturing, retail, healthcare, construction
Local Online Degrees: 1
Cost of Living: 90.1%
Top Industries: Education, healthcare and social assistance, accommodation
Local Online Degrees: 1
Cost of Living: 91%
Top Industries: Retail, manufacturing, healthcare, accommodation and food service
Local Online Degrees: 4
Cost of Living: 91.8%
Top Industries: Manufacturing, retail, healthcare
Local Online Degrees: 2
Cost of Living: 84.3%
Top Industries: Educational, construction, healthcare, manufacturing
Local Online Degrees: 1
The Best Online Colleges in West Virginia
1. West Virginia University
Online Programs: 17
West Virginia University (WVU) is a public land, space, research university located in Morgantown, West Virginia. This flagship university enrolls 28,776 students and maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 21:1. According to U.S. News, WVU is the 183rd best school in the nation, and 99th best public school. The Higher Learning Commission accredits WVA to provide bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. There are 14 Morgantown colleges and schools offering over 340 degrees. The university describes the culture as pioneering, passionate, innovative, tireless, and caring. Programming reflects this in myriad ways like when WVA introduced the the first eco-friendly people mover the “Personal Rapid Transit” and through their continual responsible use of fossil energy — West Virgina is known for its coal. The Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute at WVA is the first institute in the world devoted to studying human memory. WVA also has a vibrant creative arts community, a number of professional schools including law and medicine, and provides 17 fully-online programs that range from bachelor’s to doctoral degrees.
2. Marshall University
Online Programs: 13
Marshall University is a public research university located in Huntington, West Virginia. Huntington is a scenic historic town located in the western foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The university enrolls 13,621 students and maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 19:1 and the majority of classes contain fewer than 20 students. The Higher Learning Commission accredits Marshall University to offer associates, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. There are 13 academic schools offering over 100 degree programs in fields like business, education, health, arts and media, law and more. The most popular fields of study are business, management, marketing, health, education and psychology. Online, Marshall offers 13 degrees in nursing, education, and more. U.S. News ranks Marshall University as the 47th best college in the region.
3. Mountwest Community and Technical College
Online Programs: 8
Mountwest Community and Technical College is a public institution located in Huntington, West Virginia. This suburban campus enrolls 2,257 students both traditional and non-traditional and is one of ten regional community colleges in the state of West Virginia. The Higher Learning Commission accredits Mountwest Community and Technical College to offer associate degrees in liberal arts and career and technical degrees. Students may start their higher education journey with an AA in radio television production, advertising, or general studies or focus on a number of career-ready degrees like an AAS in dental laboratory technology, massage therapy, paramedic science, welding technology and more. Online learning provides added flexibility and at MCTC you can choose from eight online associate programs in some truly unique fields like aviation, and maritime technology.
4. Wheeling Jesuit University
Online Programs: 4
Wheeling Jesuit is a private Roman Catholic university located in Wheeling, West Virginia. Wheeling is a small cultural city with a history built on manufacturing. The University is small and enrolls just 1,385 students. The student-to-faculty ratio is 11:1 where the average class size is 14. The most popular programs are in health and related professions, business, homeland security, marketing, and law enforcement. WJU’s Center for Professional and Graduate Studies offers five programs in business, accounting, nursing, organizational leadership and a doctorate in physical therapy. According to U.S. News Wheeling Jesuit is ranked as the 37th best school in the region — South. There are four degrees offered completely online: a Master’s in educational leadership, an MSc in organizational leadership, a Master of Science in Nursing, and an RN to BSN/MSN.
5. Bluefield State College
Online Programs: 5
Bluefield State College (BSC) is a public, historically black university located in Bluefield, West Virginia. This small public university enrolls just 1,486 students and maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. Student learn in small classrooms, most with fewer than 20 students. According to U.S. News Bluefield ranks as the 52nd best college in South and 10th for top public schools. The Higher Learning Commission accredits BSC to offer associate and bachelor’s degree programs. Programming is career-focused as Bluefield aims to offer high-quality degree programs that leave graduates ready for the job market. Students study civil engineering, nursing, early/middle school education, electrical engineering, accounting, and many other high-demand subjects. In addition to a high-quality education within a small community-like setting, Bluefield State offers an affordable, high-value education for just $6,120 per year.
6. West Virginia Junior College
Online Programs: 6
Established in 1892, West Virginia Junior College (WVJC) has been offering career-ready degree programs for over 120 years. There are three satellite locations in Morgantown, Bridgeport, Charleston, along with online offerings. Originally a secretarial school, WVJC has continually developed programs throughout the century to prepare its students for today’s in-demand careers. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools awards diplomas and associate degrees. Each location offer associate programs in medical assisting, dental assisting, business administration, information technology and others. Online programs available includes diplomas in clinical medical assisting, medical office administration, medical coding, business administration, accounting, and legal office assisting.
7. West Virginia State University
Online Programs: 5
West Virginia State University (WVSU) is a public land-grant university established in 1891. There are 3,166 students enrolled and the student-to-faculty ratio is 16:1. Most classrooms contain fewer than 20 students. Originally, WVSU was part of a group of African American land-grant colleges and was the smallest land-grant institution in the country. Today, the student body has evolved to serve a diverse student body both in terms of ethnicity and age. The land-grant status remains through research in environmental education as well as through the Center for the Advancement of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The most popular degree programs are in elementary education and teaching, criminal justice, and business administration and management. Online, WVSU offers four bachelor’s degrees and a M.Ed in Technical Writing. In-state tuition and fees are just $6,996 per year.
8. West Liberty University
Online Programs: 1
West Liberty University (WLU) is a public institution located in West Liberty, West Virginia. Established in 1837, West Liberty is the oldest university in the state. There are a total of 2,340 students enrolled where 60% of the student body is female and 40% are male. The student-to-faculty ratio is just 13:1 and the average classroom has fewer than 20 students. According to U.S News West Liberty University ranks as the 28th best regional college in the South as well as the 5th top public school. The Higher Learning Commission accredits WLU to offer comprehensive education from seven professional schools: School of Professional Studies, Honors College, College of Arts and Communication, Gary E. West College of Business, College of Education, College of Sciences, and the College of Liberal Arts. There are over 60 majors and 30 programs to ranging from accounting to visual arts as well as a BA available online. The College of Arts and Communication is a popular school offering a state of the art Media Arts Center that provides it stduents with hands-on experience in fields like animation, digital audio recording techniques and others. The cost for tuition also remains low at just $6,702 for West Virginia residents.
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 maintained 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 West Virginia is the Higher Learning Commission, one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
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 West Virginia Higher Education Resources
- West Virginia State Department of Education
- The WVDE includes resources for students, teacher and the latest in education and college and career readiness standards.
- West Virginia Community and Technical College System (CTCS)
- The community and technical college system of West Virginia is a statewide promotes quality control and consistency among community colleges in the state. For a list of schools in the CTCS system of WVA head here .
- West Virginia Commission on Higher Education
- For inside information on four-year institutions in West Virginia, SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement), college calculations and information on financial aid head here.
- West Virginia PROMISE
- This grant is specifically for West Virginia high school graduates. Recipients are evaluated on test scores, GPA, and community involvement, as well as financial need. Annual awards can be up to $4,750.
- West Virgina Higher Education Grant
- The West Virginia Higher Education Grant (WVHEG)Eligibility is based on both financial need and academic record. Maximum award is $2,700 annually
- West Virginia Resident Scholarships for West Virginia University
WVU offers eight different scholarships for state residents, based on a combination of test scores and GPA. Award amounts begin at $1,500 annually and go as high as 100% of tuition.
West Virginia Non-Resident Scholarships for West Virginia University. WVU awards academic scholarships for non-resident that are merit-based and look at GPA, and test scores. For a full list head here.
- Mountain Music Trail
- This trail that spans West Virginia from Monroe to the South and Tucker to the North is a way to experience mountain or ‘old-music’ regularly and year round. For a map of locations head here .