Online Schools and Colleges in Washington

ASO Staff Writers
Updated September 5, 2023
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More Washington state students are enrolling in four-year college programs than ever before. In fact, more than 52,000 students are enrolled in Private colleges throughout Washington, plus more than 310,000 attending the state’s public institutions. Many students are leaning towards earning degrees online as opposed to attending classes on-campus, and major corporations are even partnering with colleges, such as Eastern Washington University’s data analytics partnership with Microsoft, to help them provide specialized, quality curriculum. With dozens of schools to choose from, students often find it difficult to know which online program is right for them-this page takes the guesswork out of the process by providing advice on everything from funding your online college education to finding the best online programs for your interests in Washington state.

Best Online Colleges in Washington

Students can choose from dozens of affordable, accredited online schools and colleges in Washington. In-state tuition rates for Washington students are less than the national average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Out-of-state students may qualify for reduced tuition rates through the Western Undergraduate Exchange, a regional tuition reciprocity agreement that ensures that learners pay no more than 150% of in-state tuition at participating colleges.

This guide can help you find the best online schools and colleges in Washington. The following sections include information about financial aid options, earning potential for Washington graduates, and the importance of attending an accredited school.

City Spotlight: Colleges in Washington

Seattle, WA

The largest city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is home to nine nonprofit colleges and universities. Whether on-campus or online, these schools provide academic and career training to help graduates contribute to the city’s bustling, tech-oriented economy. Seattle residents can choose from small, special-focus colleges or gigantic institutions that award thousands of degrees annually.

The Seattle Colleges comprise the largest community college district in the state, educating more than 50,000 students each year through three community colleges, four specialized training centers and Seattle Vocational Institute. Students can choose from more than 135 academic and career-technical programs, encompassing certificates, associate degrees, professional-technical training, adult basic education and continuing education. And, unlike most community colleges, the Seattle Colleges also award bachelor of applied science degrees.

Colleges and Universities in Seattle

Seattle Central CollegePublic (4-year)Certificates, Associate degrees, BAS degrees, Continuing education
North Seattle CollegePublic (4-year)Certificates, Associate degrees, BAS degrees, Continuing education
South Seattle CollegePublic (4-year)Certificates, Associate degrees, BAS degrees, Continuing education
University of WashingtonPublic (4-year)Undergraduate and graduate degrees, Certificates
Seattle UniversityPrivate NonprofitCertificates, Bachelor’s and graduate degrees
City University of SeattlePrivate NonprofitCertificates, Undergraduate and graduate degrees
Antioch University SeattlePrivate NonprofitCertificates, Bachelor’s and graduate degrees
Cornish College of the ArtsPrivate NonprofitBFA, BMus, Certificates, Lifelong learning
Seattle Pacific UniversityPrivate Nonprofit
Certificates, Bachelor’s and graduate degrees

How Much More Do College Grads in Washington Make?

Higher levels of education typically lead to increased earning potential, in Washington and throughout the nation. A 2015 report by Washington’s Education Research & Data Center showed that four-year degrees, apprenticeships, certificate programs, and associate degrees all improve earning potential significantly, especially in the short term.

The table below illustrates the nationwide correlation between educational attainment and salary potential. The data shows that bachelor’s degree-holders earn an average salary more than $24,000 higher than that of individuals with only a high school diploma. Earning potential increases further for individuals with a master’s or doctoral degree.

Salary Comparison by Degree
Less Than a High School DiplomaHigh School DiplomaAssociate DegreeBachelor’s DegreeMaster’s DegreeDoctoral Degree


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Paying for Online College in Washington: Tuition and Financial Aid

The cost of attending college in Washington depends on the learner’s residency status and the type of school. The tables below compare average tuition rates in Washington to the national averages. In-state tuition in Washington costs about $2,000 less than the national average. However, out-of-state learners pay about $2,600 more than the national average. Tuition rates at private schools in the state are also higher than the national average.

Public College Tuition
In-State TuitionOut-of-State TuitionNational Average
$6,830$28,263$9,037 (In-State); $25,657 (Out-of-State)
Private College Tuition
TuitionOut-of-State TuitionNational Average

Source:National Center for Education Statistics

Cost Considerations for Online Students in Washington

The figures above do not include the cost of room and board or additional costs for out-of-state students. Fees and expenses vary by program, so learners should contact their institution for details. Below are some cost considerations for students attending online schools and colleges in Washington.

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    Required Travel

    Some online programs require learners to visit campus for workshops, discussions, or presentations. These requirements may cause students to incur costs associated with airfare, lodging, and meals.

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    Technology Costs

    Although distance learners often save money on housing and transportation costs, online education requires Wi-Fi access, up-to-date technology, and physical or digital textbooks.

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    Specific Program Costs

    Some schools charge higher tuition rates for more popular online programs. Additionally, graduate and professional programs in areas such as engineering and nursing often cost more per credit.

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    Miscellaneous Fees

    Many schools charge fees specific to online learners. Students may need to pay fees related to library services, clinical courses, graduation, criminal background checks, and technology services.

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    Tuition Agreements for Out-of-State Students

    Some Washington schools charge all online students the same tuition rates, regardless of residency. Learners in participating states may receive tuition discounts through the Western Undergraduate Exchange.

Qualifying for In-State Tuition in Washington

To qualify for in-state tuition rates in Washington, prospective students must demonstrate residency. Qualifying students must typically have lived in Washington for at least one year prior to the first day of class — for a reason other than attending school. Individual schools often set unique residency requirements, so learners should contact their prospective institution to verify their eligibility for in-state tuition rates.

Out-of-state students who participate in the Western Undergraduate Exchange save an average of $9,400 per year. Participating learners pay no more than 150% of in-state tuition rates. To take part in the Western Undergraduate Exchange, students must reside in a qualifying state and must attend a participating institution.

Paying for College in Washington: Scholarships and Financial Aid

To reduce student debt, learners should apply for all grants and scholarships for which they meet eligibility requirements. Students attending accredited online schools and colleges in Washington can apply for various types of financial aid. Some opportunities require Washington residency, but many are also available to out-of-state students.

Scholarships for Washington College Students

American Indian Endowed Scholarship cursor-click

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports low-income Washington residents with close cultural or social ties to an American Indian community or tribe. Upper-division and graduate students receive priority.

Amount: Varies

Pipeline for Paraeducators Conditional Scholarship cursor-click

Who Can Apply: Paraeducators with at least one year of teaching experience can apply for this scholarship. Applicants can also qualify with two years of experience as a Recruiting Washington Teachers participant. Recipients must earn an associate degree within four years and agree to teach for two years in a Washington public school after graduation.

Amount: Up to $4,000 per year

Educator Retooling Conditional Scholarship cursor-click

Who Can Apply: This scholarship helps Washington educators earn a teaching certificate endorsement in a shortage area. Recipients must earn the endorsement within two years and agree to teach for two years in a Washington public school.

Amount: Up to $3,000

Washington State Opportunity Baccalaureate Scholarship cursor-click

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is available to Washington residents with a high school diploma or GED credential from the state. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and have a minimum 2.75 GPA. Students must be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a STEM or healthcare field at an eligible Washington college.

Amount: Varies

Washington State Opportunity Career and Technical Scholarship cursor-click

Who Can Apply: Washington residents with a high school diploma or GED credential can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and must pursue an eligible associate degree, certificate, or apprenticeship program at a Washington community or technical college.

Amount: Up to $1,500 per quarter

Grants for Washington College Students

Washington College Grant cursor-click

Who Can Apply: Low-income and middle-income Washington residents attending an approved college or training program can apply for this grant. All eligible students receive funding.

Amount: Up to full tuition

College Bound Scholarship cursor-click

Who Can Apply: The Washington State Legislature awards these funds to low-income residents. Students must apply by the end of their eighth grade year and must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the Washington Application for State Financial Aid.

Amount: Varies

Washington Student Achievement Council cursor-click

Who Can Apply: Washington residents experiencing unaccompanied homelessness can apply for this award. Students who were in Washington, federal, or tribal foster care after age 14 can also qualify. Recipients cannot apply funds toward a theology degree.

Amount: Up to $4,500

Passport to Apprenticeship Opportunities cursor-click

Who Can Apply: Washington residents who were in Washington, federal, or tribal foster care after age 14 or who are experiencing unaccompanied homelessness can apply for this funding. Recipients must attend an eligible apprenticeship program.

Amount: Varies

Opportunity Grant cursor-click

Who Can Apply: This grant supports Washington residents with a minimum 2.0 GPA and whose income falls at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Applicants must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the Washington Application for State Financial Aid.

Amount: Varies

The Importance of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in Washington

To ensure they receive a high-quality education, students researching online schools and colleges in Washington should only consider accredited institutions. Accredited schools undergo independent evaluation by a third party. Accreditation demonstrates that faculty, curricula, and academic support services meet minimum standards. Online schools and colleges in Washington may carry multiple types of accreditation, including institutional and programmatic accreditation.

Regional and National Accreditation

The two main types of institutional accreditation in the U.S. are regional and national accreditation. Regional accreditation generally applies to degree-granting institutions, while vocational and technical colleges often earn national accreditation.

Many types of financial aid are only available to students attending regionally accredited schools. Additionally, many employers and graduate schools only recognize degrees earned from regionally accredited institutions.The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities provides regional accreditation to postsecondary institutions in Washington.

Subject-Specific Accreditation

Individual programs often earn subject-specific accreditation. Licensure for certain professions, such as teaching, counseling, and nursing, require a degree from an accredited program. Field-specific accrediting agencies include the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs, and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

How to Know if Your School or Program is Accredited

To determine whether a school or program holds accreditation, learners can search directories from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education. These databases include information on accredited schools and programs, along with recognized accrediting agencies. Additionally, most accredited institutions feature their accreditation status on their website. Schools that do not prominently display credentials may not be reputable options.

Online College and Adult Education in Washington

Not all learners attend college immediately after graduating high school, and some professionals want to advance their career through additional training and skills development. The sections below include information about online and in-person adult education opportunities in Washington State.

By the Numbers: Adult Education in Washington

According to a 2018 report, about 685,000 Washington residents lack basic education or English language skills.

Data from a study conducted between 2007 and 2010 showed that 10% of the adult population in Washington had less than a 12th grade education.

Washington’s Integrated Digital English Acceleration program includes hybrid classes that blend online learning with in-person instruction.

Adult Education Programs for Washington Students

check-circleIntegrated Digital English Acceleration Program

This program helps adults in Washington improve their English language skills while preparing for careers and postsecondary education.

check-circleHigh School 21+ Program

This program helps Washington adults earn their high school diploma at minimal or no cost. Many Washington community colleges participate in the program, which includes basic skills classes and more advanced training.

check-circle Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training

This nationally renowned adult education program helps learners gain both job training and basic skills in areas such as writing, reading, and math. Participants concurrently earn high school and college credits.

Online College Resources for Washington Students

Washington students can access online resources that simplify the process of pursuing higher education. The resources below can help Washington learners prepare for college, apply to schools, and finance their education. The following websites include information about financial aid and career preparation.

This resource from the Washington Student Achievement Council helps prospective students plan for college and access continuing education opportunities. The website provides information tailored to each student’s age and grade.
This website offers information about education and job training opportunities in Washington. Students can search by program, career, and job trend. The website also provides information about funding options.
Undocumented students can complete this form to learn whether they qualify for state financial aid.
This program helps students and their families prepare for college. GEAR UP offers support and services starting in middle school.
Through this website, learners can access financial aid resources, along with information about state scholarships and awards from public and private institutions.

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