- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed March 2, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, accessed March 2, 2016, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed April 21, 2017: Transfer Articulation Agreements, West Virginia University, https://admissions.wvu.edu/how-to-apply/transfer-students/transfer-articulation-agreements; WVU Online Degrees, West Virginia University, http://online.wvu.edu/degrees/#result; Articulation Agreements, Marshall University, http://www.marshall.edu/admissions/transfer-students/articulation-agreements/; About Concord, Concord University, http://www.concord.edu/about-concord/; Tech Adventures, West Virginia Institute of Technology, http://studentlife.wvutech.edu/adventure; About, West Liberty University, http://westliberty.edu/about/; Transfer, West Liberty University, http://westliberty.edu/admissions/requirements/transfer/; About, Potomac State College of West Virginia University, http://www.potomacstatecollege.edu/about/; By the Numbers, Potomac State College, http://www.potomacstatecollege.edu/about/by-the-numbers.html; Major Programs, Potomac State College, http://www.potomacstatecollege.edu/academics/majors/; Degrees, Bluefield State College, https://www.bluefieldstate.edu/academics/degrees; Tuition and Fees, Shepherd University, http://www.shepherd.edu/tuition-and-fees/; Online Degrees, West Virginia State University, http://online.wvstateu.edu/online-programs/;
- Scholarships, College Foundation of West Virginia, accessed April 21, 2017, https://secure.cfwv.com/Financial_Aid_Planning/Scholarships/Scholarships.aspx
The higher education landscape of West Virginia contains a few larger schools and many smaller campuses. If you're shopping around for the best traditional and online colleges in West Virginia, it can help to know which schools have outperformed the others in measures of affordability, accessibility and student success.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publishes tons of data on colleges and universities across the country, so we crunched the numbers to find out which institutions in West Virginia are measurably the best. You can read the details of our 13-point methodology at the bottom of the page, if you're interested in finding out just how we came up with the rankings.
We included the state's largest university and its satellite campuses as separate schools in this analysis. Students transferring from a community college into a four-year university program may have additional opportunities at certain schools on our list — we'll do our best to point out when that's the case. Check out the list after the jump.
Best 4-Year Colleges in West Virginia
Here they are, the best traditional and online colleges in West Virginia by the numbers:
Not only did West Virginia's largest college take the No. 1 overall spot statewide, it also made a strong showing on our national rankings. West Virginia University came in at No. 58 out of all 1,647 nationwide schools we included in our analysis. It outranked all other West Virginia schools in terms of its variety of academic programs available, and it posted the highest 2015-16 graduation rate in the state.
WVU also has a claim to being one of the best online colleges in West Virginia. No other school on our list offered a higher total number of degrees in the virtual classroom. Students at WVU paid the state's lowest books and supplies cost in 2015-16, according to NCES data, and the college features numerous transfer agreements with two-year institutions.
Average net price is a measure of college affordability that subtracts estimated grant and scholarship aid from the expected total cost of tuition, fees, books, supplies, housing, meals and other expenses. Recent statistics show that low-income Marshall University students paid an affordable average net price that ranked No. 5 statewide and nearly cracked the top 100 of all schools we studied in the U.S.
The Huntington school also offers the state's No. 2 array of degree programs, and a large and diverse group of transfer agreements with West Virginia's community and technical colleges are in place. On top of all that, only three other schools on our list posted a higher retention rate for first year students than Marshall.
Students at this Athens institution paid the lowest net price of any independent university in the state in 2014-15. The out-of-pocket costs were so low at Concord University, in fact, that it placed in the 98th percentile — No. 26 out of more than 1,600 schools — in our national survey. Concord graduates left school with the second-lowest burden of college debt in the state, and the student-faculty ratio is a comfortable 15:1.
The data also showed that Concord places an emphasis on working to help ensure that its students have access to the courses they need. It placed at No. 3 on our list for its percentage of students enrolled at least partially in distance education, and traditional flexibility measures like remedial services, available credit for life experience and degree programs that can be completed entirely through weekend and evening classes are available for students who need them.
This division of West Virginia University took the No. 1 spot in the state for its percentage of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduates, which likely factored into its placement in the top two schools for average net price affordability. The Montgomery school also shared the No. 1 spot among schools on our list for its more than 75 percent of graduates who were able to pay off their student loans within three years of completing their degrees.
If you're a fan of camping, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and other adventure sports, WVU Tech features an extracurricular initiative that might be right up your alley. Tech Adventures is a program designed to provide students with the right training, equipment and opportunities to take advantage of West Virginia's vast outdoor recreation landscape.
Founded in 1837, a quarter of a century before the state was even admitted to the Union, West Liberty University produced some of the highest student success numbers in the state in 2015-16. It had the highest retention rate of first-year students of any school on our list, and its graduation rate ranked No. 4 in the state. What's more, the NCES reports that only three other schools in West Virginia awarded students a higher percentage of institutional grant aid.
Transfer students to West Liberty University have access to a financial aid measure that can make a real difference in their college costs. The school's University Scholarship, an award of $2,000 per year for three years, is available to all first-time transfer students with a transfer GPA between 3.25 and 4.0.
This Keyser school placed at No. 4 and No. 7 respectively in the average net price categories for middle- and low-income students. Its average cost of books and supplies was lowest in the state, and just six other schools across the whole country charged students less for tuition and fees.
Potomac State also stands out among the best traditional and online colleges in West Virginia for its position as a type of hybrid two- and four-year institution. The degree portfolio available at Potomac State leans heavily toward Associate of Arts (A.A.) degrees designed as stepping stones to four-year university programs, but full Bachelor's of Applied Science (B.A.S.) degrees in business management, computer information systems and more are also available.
Bluefield State College ranks just behind our top school for the affordability of its tuition and fees, placing in the 94th percentile nationally. It took the No. 5 and No. 6 spots in the state for the average net price charged to middle- and low-income students, respectively, and graduates left school with a smaller total student debt burden than at any other college in West Virginia.
Bluefield State was also one of the best-attended online colleges in West Virginia in the fall semester of 2015. It placed third in the state for its percentage of students taking at least some of their coursework via distance education. The slate of academic program offerings at Bluefield State favors bachelor's degrees, but career-focused Associate of Science (A.S.) degrees in health care and engineering technology are also available.
The average net price charged to low- and middle-income students at Shepherd University ranked No. 4 and No. 7 in the state, respectively, and both figures placed in the top 100 of all schools we surveyed nationwide. The Shepherdstown school also placed third among schools on our list for its graduation rate and saw its students graduate with less student debt on average than all but three other schools in the state.
It was also the only school in our analysis to offer an alternative tuition payment plan to students who want to pay their tuition over a period of time. Students attending in the fall or spring semesters may sign up for a financing plan that splits their tuition payment into three installments, provided that students compile a budget for the semester and submit it to payment plan administrators.
Fairmont State University offers the third-largest selection of degree programs among our top ten, and its distance education portfolio was larger than all but one other school on our list. It also earned a place as one of the best online colleges in West Virginia with its No. 1 distance education enrollment rate.
Campus-based flexibility metrics were also in force at the Fairmont school. Weekend/evening degree plans are available, as well as exams that students can take to earn course credit for applicable life experience. Recent alumni also held a fairly manageable amount of college debt after graduation, with just four other schools in the state ranking higher than FSU in that category.
Founded in 1891, West Virginia State University is located just a few miles from the state capitol of Charleston. Its average net price rankings for both middle- and low-income students came in at No. 3 in the state, and just one other school provided students with as high a percentage of institutional grant aid as WVSU.
Students looking for an online bachelor's degree in West Virginia have four programs to choose from at WVSU — accounting, management, criminal justice and technical writing — and it seems students at this Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) institution aren't shy about working in the virtual classroom. Only three other schools in our top ten had a higher rate of distance education enrollment than the 31 percent of students taking some of their coursework online at WVSU.
Most popular degree programs in West Virginia
Certain degrees are more popular than others at West Virginia colleges and universities, and knowing which ones are near the top of the list can help you get a picture of the academic landscape. Here's a list of the current top programs in the state by enrollment.
In-Demand Careers in West Virginia
Students who have an idea of what the career market might look like when they graduate can work with their advisors to make better-informed decisions about the courses they take and the majors they choose. Take a look at this year's hottest careers statewide.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||33.9%||310||$56,640|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||29.2%||490||$58,180|
|Home Health Aides||29.2%||3,860||$20,060|
|Personal Care Aides||25.8%||10,710||$19,840|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||24.3%||1,620||$60,270|
|Information Security Analysts||23.9%||170||$76,320|
|Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners||23.2%||230||$36,870|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||23%||350||$63,110|
|Physical Therapist Aides||22%||120||$24,640|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||21.8%||800||$50,390|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||20.6%||830||$44,640|
|Medical Equipment Repairers||19.8%||300||$40,610|
|Occupational Therapy Aides||19.7%||80||$31,060|
|Interpreters and Translators||19.2%||110||$31,430|
|Operations Research Analysts||19.1%||230||$59,380|
|Transportation Security Screeners||19%||90||$38,580|
|Computer Systems Analysts||18.9%||860||$73,150|
|Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians||17.2%||500||$34,280|
|Software Developers, Applications||16.2%||880||$88,490|
|Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors||15.7%||380||$34,200|
|Psychologists, All Other||15.4%||110||$80,210|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in West Virginia
State sources present West Virginia residents with a range of financial aid opportunities. Here are just a few:
- The West Virginia PROMISE Scholarship may award up to $4,750 per eligible high school graduate if certain academic goals are met
- The West Virginia Higher Education Grant is a need-based program that provides a maximum of $2,700 for each of up to four years
- Non-traditional students can take advantage of the Higher Education Adult Part-Time Student (HEAPS) Grant Program, which awards aid based on public university tuition and fees costs
November 15 (Early Action admissions deadline)
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.25 GPA and full-time status.