Online Colleges in PA with Degree Program Information

There are nearly 60 colleges and universities within Pennsylvania. See how four of these schools that offer online programs stack up against each other to find the school for you.

School Ranking Overview

This article profiles four of the largest universities in Pennsylvania. Available online programs range from associate to doctoral degree levels. Additionally, certain schools offer undergraduate or graduate certificate options. Some programs may be available entirely online or in hybrid format. The top three out of the four schools listed in this article are ranked in each of the following categories:

  • Program Variety
  • Graduation Rate (includes on-campus students)
  • Largest Student Population (includes on-campus students)
  • Most Competitive (includes on-campus students)

Program Variety

At most schools, online options aren't as prevalent as on-campus programs, so a school with a comparatively high number of online programs could be of interest to prospective online students. The following three Pennsylvania schools have a relatively diverse selection of online learning opportunities.

1. Pennsylvania State University - Main Campus

Based out of University Park, this school offers more than 50 online undergraduate programs, including associate and bachelor's degrees, certificates and minors. Additionally, graduate students can choose from among 70 online master's and graduate certificate programs. There is also an online Doctor of Nursing Practice available. Distance learning options are offered in the following fields:

  • Business
  • Criminal Justice
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Finance
  • Homeland Security
  • Human Development
  • Information Technology
  • Nursing
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Political Science
  • Project Management
  • Public Administration
  • Psychology
  • Security and Risk Analysis
  • Turfgrass Science

2. Drexel University

Online students at this Philadelphia school have a comparable number of program options as those available at Penn State. However, with fewer degrees conferred annually, this university ranks in second place. Students can earn an online bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree here. Areas of study include:

  • Business
  • Communications
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • General Studies
  • Health Services Administration
  • Information Systems
  • Legal Studies
  • Nursing
  • Public Health
  • Technology

3. University of Pittsburgh

This Pittsburgh public institution features fewer than 15 online programs. Distance learning options here are available at the graduate level, typically through master's degree and certificate programs. An online Doctor of Nursing is also offered. Students can focus on one of the following fields of study:

  • Education
    • Elementary Education
    • English and Communications
    • Mathematics Education
  • Law
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Nursing Administration

Graduation Rate

While number of programs offered is appealing, students may wonder how many attendees actually complete their studies. The three schools below were ranked according to highest graduation rates out of the four universities for bachelor's degree students who began in 2007 and finished within six years. Please note that rankings were based on data taken from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which details graduation rates for both on-campus and online students (

1. Pennsylvania State University - Main Campus

Securing first place yet again, this university boasts a graduation rate of 85%. Even more impressive, 92% of students who began their bachelor's degree studies in 2012 returned for a second year.

2. University of Pittsburgh

Not far behind is University of Pittsburgh. Here, 80% of bachelor's degree seekers who started school in 2007 completed their studies in six years.

3. Drexel University

Out of all bachelor's degree seekers who began their studies at Drexel University in 2007, 70% finished in six years. However, 86% of students who began earning their bachelor's degree in 2012 came back for a second year of study.

Largest Student Population

To some college students, the larger the school, the more opportunities for valuable social interaction. This ranking compares the top three universities in overall attendance. The rankings were based on the total of online and on-campus students.

1. Pennsylvania State University - Main Campus

Penn State in University Park is the largest school in the state to offer degree programs through an online college. Incidentally, each year, the World Campus for online students serves more than 9,500 students from more than 60 countries. The total student population as of 2013 was 46,615, according to the NCES.

2. Temple University

The NCES noted that in 2013, this Philadelphia public school educated 37,270 students. Of this total, 28,068 students were studying at the undergraduate level.

3. University of Pittsburgh

This school beat Drexel University for third place by a couple thousand students. As of 2013, 28,640 students attended here, according to the NCES.

Most Competitive

Another option to consider when contemplating schools is how many students are admitted each year. The information collected for this ranking was also obtained from the NCES and takes into consideration both online and campus-based students.

1. Pennsylvania State University - Main Campus

This school and the University of Pittsburgh have similarly competitive admissions, with Penn State only securing first place by a couple of percentage points. As of fall 2012, this school admitted only 54% of applicants.

2. University of Pittsburgh

Fewer than half of all applicants were accepted to this school in the fall of 2012. Specifically, 56% of interested students were cleared to begin their studies. However, only 26% of those accepted actually enrolled.

3. Temple University

In third place for most competitive university, Temple accepted 64% of applicants. Please note, the NCES figures for this institution were updated to reflect the fall 2013 semester.

Pennsylvania Schools: At a Glance

School NameLocationSchool TypeOnline Programs OfferedArea Ranking
Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia, PAPrivate, not-for-profitBachelor's Degrees,
Master's Degrees,
Doctorate Degrees,
#2 Program Variety,
#3 Graduation Rate
Pennsylvania State University - Main CampusUniversity Park, PAPublicAssociate Degrees,
Bachelor's Degrees,
Master's Degrees,
Doctorate Degrees,
#1 Program Variety,
#1 Graduation Rate,
#1 Largest Student Population,
#1 Most Competitive
Temple UniversityPhiladelphia, PAPublicBachelor's Degree,
Master's Degrees,
Doctorate Degrees,
#2 Largest Student Population,
#3 Most Competitive
University of PittsburghPittsburgh, PAPublicMaster's Degrees,
#3 Program Variety,
#2 Graduation Rate,
#3 Largest Student Population,
#2 Most Competitive

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