For this Top 20 Best Online Schools ranking, we have scored each of the institutions of higher learning that are located in the State of Virginia and that have a selection of online academic programs available from which distance learning students can choose. We scored each school in the state that offers a range of online programs using two different rates.
The two standards that were used are the school’s total Freshmen Retention Rate (what percentage of the school’s freshmen student population returned for their sophomore year) and their Graduation Rate (what percentage of the school’s students that were enrolled in a degree-granting program received their degree within an acceptable time-frame). The goal of this Top 20 Best Online Schools in Virginia ranking is to provide distance learning students with a broad overview of what Virginia-based schools will be the most capable of providing them with a comprehensive, reputable and flexible education.
The State of Virginia is nicknamed the “Old Dominion” due to its status as the first colonial possession that was established in mainland British America. The state is also considered the “Mother of Presidents” because eight Presidents of the United States (Zachary Taylor, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson and George Washington) were born in the state, which is more than any other state. The Virginia General Assembly–a bicameral legislative body–is the oldest continuous law-making body that is located in the New World.
We have judged each school that is located within the State of Virginia and that have a selection of online and asynchronous academic programs based on the following ranking criteria:
50%: Freshmen Retention Rates and;
50%: Graduation Rates
After obtaining the two rates, we then added them together to give each school a Final Score which has a minimum possible score of 2 total points and a maximum of 200 points. To gather the information that we required to rank each Virginia-based school based on this criteria, we used each of the school’s websites whenever possible to obtain their two rates. In cases where a school does not provide this information, we utilized the databases of both U.S. News and World Report and of National Center for Education Statistics. In the case where multiple schools had the same Final Score based on the combination of the two scoring rates for this Top 20, we utilized the alphabetical ordering of their names as our designated tie-breaker. We chose these two ranking criteria because when both rates are taken into account, they greatly assist in shedding light on how capable a school is as a provider of a higher education overall.
John Tyler Community College is a two-year public community college that is located in Chester, Virginia. In addition to the main campus in Chester, John Tyler Community College also operates a satellite campus in the town of Midlothian, Virginia. JTCC was originally established in 1967 and is currently the fifth-largest of the 23 community colleges that are located in the State of Virginia.
Bluefield College is a private, not-for-profit Christian-affiliated liberal arts college that is located in Bluefield, Virginia. Bluefield College was originally established in 1922 by the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) after residents of the town offered to donate land and to start raising funds for the school’s establishment. At its founding, Bluefield College operated as a two-year junior college. In 1975, Bluefield College began functioning as a four-year college, which it still is to this day. Bluefield College is currently organized into five academic divisions: the College of Arts and Letters; the College of Professional Programs; the College of Sciences; the School of Education and; the School of Nursing.
Bluefield College has been offering to its distance learning students a selection of online and asynchronous Bachelor’s degree-granting programs since the 2011 academic school year. These online educational programs are taught by the same dedicated and highly experienced academic faculty members as the on-campus program counterparts are.
18: Northern Virginia Community College – Annandale Campus
Northern Virginia Community College (which is commonly referred to just as NVCC and is informally known as NOVA) is a two-year community college that has a main campus located in Annandale, Virginia. It is composed of five additional satellite campuses, and four academic centers in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. Northern Virginia Community College is the second-largest multi-campus community college in the United States and is the largest educational institution that is located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The other five satellite campuses are the Alexandria Campus; the Manassas Campus; the Medical Education Campus (which is based in Springfield); the Woodbridge Campus and; the Loudoun Campus.
Northern Virginia Community College was originally established in 1964 and was originally named the Northern Virginia Technical College. Today, NVCC is fully accredited by the regional accrediting body Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and offers their more than 75,000 total enrolled students a selection of 160 degree-granting programs at the Associate’s level in addition to a myriad of professional certificate programs.
Mary Baldwin University (or MBU as it is commonly referred to as for simplicity sake) is a private, not-for-profit liberal arts university that is located in Staunton, Virginia. Mary Baldwin University was originally established in 1842 by founder Rufus William Bailey as the Augusta Female Seminary. Other past names are Mary Baldwin Seminary and Mary Baldwin College. Mary Baldwin University is the oldest institution of higher education for women in the nation that is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, and the University is additionally home to the only all-female corps of cadets in the world.
In addition to its main campus, Mary Baldwin University operates regional academic centers throughout the State of Virginia in the cities of Charlottesville, Emporia, Glenns, Kilmarnock, Richmond, Roanoke, South Boston, South Hill, Warsaw, Weyers Cave and in Williamsburg.
Mary Baldwin University offers its more than 1,700 total enrolled students a selection of undergraduate degree-granting programs, graduate degree-granting programs, and professional certification programs. Many of these academic programs are available in an online and fully asynchronous format which is taught by the same academic faculty members as the on-campus program counterparts, ensuring not only an added amount of flexibility but also a consistent amount of quality in the education provided.
Mary Baldwin University is also notable as the home to the only female corps of cadets in the United States of America. Also exciting, all of MBU’s online programs are open to both men and women and starting in the fall of 2017 and the university will be accepting men into its University College program as residential students in their living-learning communities for the first time in the school’s history.
Averett University is a private and not-for-profit liberal arts university that is located in Danville, Virginia. Averett University was originally established in 1859 as a women’s only college which was known as Union Female College. The school’s name was changed to Averett College when it received accreditation as a junior college in 1917. Accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) was provided in 1928. In 1969, Averett became a coeducational four-year college.The school changed its name to its present-day name of Averett University in 2001.
Averett University offers its more than 2,700 total enrolled students a wide-variety of undergraduate degree-granting programs, graduate degree-granting programs and professional certification programs to choose from; many of which are available in an online and completely asynchronous format in order to better serve distance learning students.
Averett University’s Adult Education program, which is known as the Graduate and Professional Studies (GPS), has campus centers in the cities of Danville, Richmond and Tidewater. Graduate and Professional Studies classes are offered at 12 locations in total around the State of Virginia. Averett University additionally operates the North Campus Athletic Center and Averett Flight Center at Danville Regional Airport, both of which are located in Danville. The university also operates an Equestrian Center that is based in Pelham, NC, just across the Virginia-North Carolina state borders.
Norfolk State University is a public Historically Black University (HBCU) that is based in Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk State University (or NSU as it is commonly referred to for simplicity sake) was originally established in 1935 as the Norfolk Unit of Virginia Union University. In 1942, the school became independent of Virginia Union University and, due to this, was renamed to Norfolk Polytechnic College. Two years later, Norfolk Polytechnic College became a member-institute of Virginia State College (which is now known as Virginia State University). This change was due to an act of the Virginia State Legislature. In 1969, the college separated from Virginia State College and was renamed to Norfolk State College. The college was issued institutional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) the same year. The college was granted university status in 1979 by the General Assembly of Virginia and, because of this, it changed its name to its present-day name of Norfolk State University.
Norfolk State University is organized into eight academic divisions through which all of the university’s undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered. These academic divisions are the School of Business; the School of Education; the College of Liberal Arts; the College of Engineering, Science and Technology; the School of Social Work; the School of Extended Learning; the Honors College and; the Graduate School.
Lord Fairfax Community College is a multi-campus community college that operates campuses in Middleton (Middleton Campus), Warrenton (Fauquier Campus and Vint Hill Campus) and Luray-Page County Center (Luray). Lord Fairfax Community College–which is commonly referred to as LFCC–offers more than 75 degree and certificate programs from which students can choose. These programs are offered at the undergraduate level and are taught by a qualified and dedicated academic faculty.
Lord Fairfax Community College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), which is a Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the United States Department of Education approved regional accrediting body for the southern region of the United States as well as schools for United States-native students that are located in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
Liberty University is a private, not-for-profit Southern Baptist-affiliated liberal arts university that is located in Lynchburg, Virginia. Liberty University was originally established in 1971 as the Lynchburg Baptist College. Lynchburg Baptist College was founded by Jerry Lamon Falwell Sr., a Southern Baptist pastor, televangelist and a conservative activist. Today, Liberty University is organized into nine academic divisions: the School of Law and Government; the Liberty Divinity School; the Zaki Gordon Cinematic Arts Center; the College of Osteopathic Medicine; the School of Business; the School of Aeronautics; the School of Engineering; the School of Music and; Liberty University Online. It is through these academic divisions that Liberty University offers its many on-campus and online educational programs.
The academic programs that are provided by Liberty University to their more than 134,000 total enrolled students (which is comprised of 21,800 traditional on-campus students and 112,500 distance learning students) span across varying areas-of-study and are available at all levels of learning (undergraduate degree-granting programs, graduate degree-granting programs, and professional certificate programs). The traditional face-to-face academic programs and the asynchronous online programs are both taught by the same dedicated academic faculty members.
Marymount University is a private, not-for-profit Roman Catholic-affiliated liberal arts university that is located in Arlington, Virginia. Marymount University was originally established in 1950 by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (RSHM). The school that RSHM founded was known as Marymount College and operated as a two-year women’s only school. Marymount College became a four-year college in 1973. The first male students were admitted into the college’s nursing program in 1972, and the college became a fully coeducational institute in 1986. The same year, the college changed its name to its present-day name of Marymount University. Today, the university offers a wide-selection of undergraduate degree-granting programs, graduate degree-granting programs and professional certificate programs both online and on-campus.
Additionally, Marymount University is a member of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, which allows its students to take courses at any of the other 13 member-institutions of the Consortium and to borrow books from their libraries. Some of the member-institutions include Georgetown University; the George Washington University; the Catholic University of America and; the Corcoran College of Art and Design among others.
Regent University is a fully accredited, private and not-for-profit Christian-affiliated liberal arts university that offers 128 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 9,000 total enrolled students. Regent University was founded by Pat Robertson (who is a media mogul, executive chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network and former Southern Baptist minister) in 1977 as the Christian Broadcasting Network University. The university changed its name to its present-day name of Regent University in 1990.
In 2015, Regent University was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as having the 11th best online undergraduate program in the United States. Additionally, Regent University’s online MBA faculty members were ranked as being the 1st best nationally in 2013 by U.S. News and World Report. Regent University is fully accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Lynchburg College is a private, not-for-profit Disciples of Christ-affiliated liberal arts college that is located in Lynchburg, Virginia. Lynchburg College was originally established in 1903 as the Virginia Christian College. Lynchburg College was the first institution in the United States to train nuclear physicists and nuclear engineers for the NS Savannah project under the order of President Eisenhower to aid in the development and operation of the world’s first nuclear-powered ship.
Lynchburg College today offers its more than 2,500 total enrolled students a selection of undergraduate degree-granting programs, graduate degree-granting programs, and professional certificate programs. Many of the academic programs that are offered are available in an online and fully asynchronous format, such as: a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program among others. Additionally, the college offers numerous for-credit courses in an asynchronous online format. The online academic programs are taught by the same academic faculty members as the on-campus counterparts.
There are more than 40 clubs and organizations at Lynchburg College in which students can participate. These include an active Greek Life, social clubs, philanthropic groups, spiritual clubs, student government and various organizations that provide students with volunteer opportunities.
Eastern Mennonite University (which is commonly referred to simply as EMU) is a private, not-for-profit liberal arts university that is affiliated with the Mennonite Church USA, an Anabaptist Christian denomination. Eastern Mennonite University is located in Harrisonburg, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley area. The university was originally established in 1917 by a group of Mennonite church members who recognized that their church-centered communities needed to offer schooling beyond the basic education level for local young-adult Mennonites.
The University operates a satellite campus in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which primarily caters to busy working adult students. This satellite campus teaches academic programs in a way that tries to serve these working adults better by teaching weekend and night courses, allowing these students to have a greater amount of flexibility in their education.
Additionally, for even greater flexibility, students can choose to enroll into one of three fully online and asynchronous academic programs that are offered by Eastern Mennonite University. These online and asynchronous academic programs are taught by the same dedicated, and experienced faculty members as the on-campus counterparts are. The three programs that are available online are: a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) degree program, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program. The university also offers a myriad of online and asynchronous stand-alone for-credit courses that can be used to meet the requirements of any of the academic programs available on-campus and online at EMU.
Old Dominion University (which is commonly referred to simply as ODU) is a public research university that is located in Norfolk, Virginia. ODU was originally established in 1930 as the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary. Old Dominion University got its name from one of Virginia’s state nicknames–“The Old Dominion”–which was given to the state by King Charles II of England for remaining loyal to the Crown during the English Civil War (1642-1651).
Today, Old Dominion University is classified by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education as being a Research University with a Higher Research Activity Rating. ODU offers a selection of more than 160 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 25,000 students and is recognized as one of the nation’s largest providers of online and asynchronous academic programs.
Hampton University (which is also commonly referred to as HU or Home by the Sea) is a private, not-for-profit Historically Black University (HBCU) that is located in Hampton, Virginia. Hampton University was originally established in 1868 by black and white leaders of the American Missionary Association (AMA) after the American Civil War to provide education to freedmen. The school that these leaders established was known as the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. Among the university’s many famous alumni is Dr. Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915), an educator who founded in 1881 the Tuskegee Institute, which is another college that is supported by the AMA.
Hampton University offers its more than 5,000 total enrolled students a selection of numerous undergraduate degree-granting programs, graduate degree-granting programs, and professional certificate programs. These academic programs span across a myriad of different areas-of-study including many interdisciplinary programs. Many of the university’s academic programs are available in an online and fully asynchronous format. The same dedicated academic faculty members teach the online programs as the on-campus counterparts.
The Virginia Commonwealth University is a public research university that is commonly referred to simply as VCU. VCU was originally founded in 1838 as the medical department of Hampden-Sydney College. The department would later become the Medical College of Virginia in 1854. In 1968, the Virginia General Assembly merged the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) with the Richmond Professional Institute (which itself was founded in 1917) to create the Virginia Commonwealth University. The Virginia Commonwealth University is located in Richmond, Virginia.
The Virginia Commonwealth University’s more than 31,000 students can choose from a selection of more than 225 degree-granting programs in addition to numerous professional certificate programs that are all offered through the university’s 13 schools and one college. These academic divisions are: the College of Humanities and Sciences; the Robertson School of Media and Culture; the School of World Studies; the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs; the School of Allied Health Professions; the School of the Arts; the School of Business; the School of Dentistry; the School of Education; the School of Engineering; the School of Medicine; the School of Nursing; the School of Pharmacy; the School of Social Work; the University College; the VCU Graduate School; the VCU Honors College and; the VCU Life Sciences.
George Mason University, or frequently just George Mason or GMU, is a public research university with its main campus in Fairfax County, Virginia. It is the largest university of its kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as the largest university by headcount. George Mason University enrolls a total of 34,900 annually. The school was originally founded as a branch of the University of Virginia in 1949, and at the time was called Northern Virginia University Center of the University of Virginia. Classes were both credit and noncredit classes, and they were held at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, as well as federal buildings, other schools, churches, at the Virginia Theological Seminary, at Marine Corps Base Quantico and even in some private homes.
Over time, the school underwent a few name changes before settling on its current name. In 1952, the name became University College, the Northern Virginia branch of the University of Virginia. The name finally became George Mason University in 1958. The City of Fairfax purchased and donated 150-acres of land just outside city-limits for the college’s new site to be established. This is now known as their Fairfax Campus.
Today, George Mason University has three campuses in Northern Virginia; in Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William. It also retains an international campus in Songdo, Korea. Despite having several physical locations, the school also has a thriving online student body. Degree programs through their online platform are offered in a synchronous format, where students are responsible for logging in to virtually attend an instructor-led class, as well as asynchronous, which allows students to complete their coursework at their pace.
James Madison University, or JMU, is a public, coeducational research university that was founded in 1908 in Harrisburg, Virginia. The Virginia General Assembly established the school in 1908 as The State Normal and Industrial School for Women. It was a women’s only educational facility that offered classes similar to junior college courses, or what we consider to be vocational training today. In 1914, the name was changed to State Normal School for Women at Harrisonburg; however, they wouldn’t be eligible to confer bachelor’s degrees until 1916. The name changed a few more times, to State Teachers College at Harrisonburg in 1924, and Madison College in 1938, and then settled on its current and permanent name in 1976. Despite the few name changes in between, it wasn’t until 1946 that men were first allowed to enroll as regular students.
James Madison University offers 115 degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, educational specialist, and doctoral levels. These are all taught at one of the seven colleges into which the University is divided. These divisions are the College of Arts and Letters; the College of Business; the College of Education; the College of Health and Behavioral Studies; the College of Integrated Science and Engineering; the College of Science and Mathematics; the College of Visual and Performing Arts; and The Graduate School. Currently, James Madison University offers several Certificate programs and Graduate programs in an online format.
3: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is a public land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant research university that is located in Blacksburg, Virginia. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University–which is commonly referred to simply as Virginia Tech–was originally established in 1872 as the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. The college’s name would be changed to the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute in 1896 and again to Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1944. Virginia Polytechnic Institute would receive a final name change to its present-day name of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1970.
The College of William and Mary is a public research university that is located in Williamsburg, Virginia. The College of William and Mary–which is commonly referred to simply as W&M–was originally Royally established in 1693 by letters that were issued by King William III and by Queen Mary II. W&M is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the United States after Harvard University and is the oldest that is located in the southern region of the United States. The College of William and Mary educated the United States Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Tyler as well as training many other key figures that would later be critical to the development of the nation, earning the college the nickname “the Alma Mater of the Nation.” The College of William and Mary is also known as a Public Ivy school, which means the education that is provided to the college’s students is viewed as being of the same quality as the comprehensive academic programs that are taught at the Ivy League schools.
Today, the College of William and Mary offers its more than 8,500 total enrolled students a wide-variety of undergraduate degree-granting programs, graduate degree-granting programs and professional certificate programs to choose from. The college’s distance learning students can opt to enroll in their Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program, which is fully online and asynchronous. This MBA degree program has received full programmatic accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which is a Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the United States Department of Education approved accrediting body. The College of William and Mary has full institutional accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
In addition to the nationally recognized online MBA program, the College of William and Mary has numerous stand-alone for-credit courses that are available online and that can be used to meet the requirements of any of the degree programs that are offered at W&M or at any institution of higher education that accepts transfer credits from the College, which includes many of the most highly recognized institutes in the nation.
The University of Virginia was ranked as the best school in our Top 20 Best Online Schools in Virginia ranking due to having an excellent Final Score of 190 points out of a total of 200 points. This is because of their enviable Freshman Retention Rate (with 97% of all freshmen students returning for their sophomore year) and their stable Graduation Rate (with 93% of all degree-seeking students receiving their degree in an acceptable amount of time).
The University of Virginia is a public research university and is the flagship for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The University of Virginia (which is commonly referred to just as UVA) is located in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, and was originally established in 1819. The university was founded by Thomas Jefferson. Today, the university is organized into eleven academic divisions. These are: the School of Architecture; the College of Arts and Sciences; the Darden School of Business; the McIntire School of Commerce; the School of Continuing and Professional Studies; the Curry School of Education; the School of Engineering and Applied Science; the School of Law; the School of Medicine; the School of Nursing and; the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.