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
The top colleges in West Virginia include those that offer quality academics and a reasonable price. To locate them, we used a methodology that analyzed a school's degree catalog, support services and student success measures such as graduation and retention rates. Based on our calculations, these are the best schools in West Virginia. When done, read about the top community colleges in West Virginia, too.
West Virginia University is not only one of the top universities in West Virginia, but it is also the largest. It enrolls more than 31,000 students across three campuses. In addition to its main campus in Morgantown, the West Virginia University System includes WVU Tech in Beckley and Potomac State College in Keyser.
In Morgantown, West Virginia University has 14 colleges and schools that offer more than 340 majors. In addition to liberal arts fields, students can pursue professional degrees in the areas of law, dentistry, medicine and pharmacy. For those seeking online colleges, WVU also offers hundreds of online courses.
Affordable tuition, experienced teachers and hundreds of student organizations and clubs also are what help make WVU one of the best colleges in West Virginia.
At Wheeling Jesuit University, the values of leadership and service are embraced. The Catholic college was founded in 1954, making it the youngest of the nation's Jesuit institutions.
WJU may be an ideal school for students seeking universities in West Virginia that offer a small learning environment. With only 1,385 students enrolled, the university features small class sizes and a low student-faculty ratio. There are dozens of degree programs available, including certificates, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and a doctoral program. A number of institutional grant and scholarship programs are available to reduce costs for students.
Students can also find plenty to love in the City of Wheeling, a small community that notes it was the first gateway to the west. Today, it offers arts, adventure and good food to those enrolled at Wheeling Jesuit University.
As another of the top schools in West Virginia, Marshall University says it offers students more than a degree. The institution notes it provides inspiration to changes lives. While that isn't something that can be measured by any analysis, we can vouch for Marshall's strong retention rate which means students must like the school enough to return year after year.
Founded in 1837, Marshall University is a historic institution. It was named for John Marshall, who was the fourth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The accredited school enrolls more than 13,500 students today and offers academic options that range from associate degrees to professional degrees. It has 13 colleges and schools.
On its campus in Huntington, Marshall hosts more than 200 registered student organizations, and students have access to more than 250 study abroad sites.
Another of the top colleges in West Virginia can be found in Buckhannon. That's where West Virginia Wesleyan College is located.
Established in 1890, West Virginia Wesleyan College is a liberal arts institution that invites students to call it their home. The college is affiliated with The United Methodist Church and offers a Christian education. Upon graduation, students should be prepared to think critically, communicate effectively and act responsibly if the school has met its mission.
Nearly 1,500 students at enrolled at West Virginia Wesleyan College. The school has a low student-faculty ratio and small class sizes. Of its dozens of majors, popular options include education, nursing and exercise science. About 95 percent of undergrads receive financial assistance.
If you're looking for West Virginia universities with affordable tuition, give Concord University a closer look. The university gets high marks for its low net price, which is the cost after financial aid is factored.
Concord University is a public institution that was founded in 1871. Its accredited programs are contained in three colleges: the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; the College of Natural Science, Mathematics and Health; and the College of Professional Studies. Academic programs at Concord result in a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees. Online courses are also available.
A low student-faculty ratio helps the school provide personalized attention to students. Among West Virginia schools, it is also notable for having policies that make it a good choice for veterans. Its campus is in Athens.
There are many reasons to consider the University of Charleston one of the best schools in West Virginia. It features a small size, rigorous academics and an environment welcoming to innovation.
UC enrolls nearly 2,500 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It has a First-Year Experience program to help freshman succeed, and 90 percent of graduates find employment or continue their education within six months of earning their degree. What's more the University of Charleston is considered a military-friendly school for service members who want to complete their education.
While established as Barboursville Seminary in 1888, UC now focuses on providing an education in the liberal arts tradition. In addition to its campus-based programs in Charleston, the school offers a number of online degree programs as well.
Fairmont State University was originally established as a private teacher's college in 1865. It is now a public university that is large enough to offer diverse education opportunities while small enough to provide a personalized learning environment.
FSU has eight colleges and schools as well as a distance education catalog that includes numerous online courses. As one of the top West Virginia universities, Fairmont State works to make its degree programs accessible to adult learners as well as traditional students. In addition to online classes, night and weekend courses are also available to meet the needs of those who may work during the day.
More than 4,000 students are enrolled at Fairmont State University, and nearly three-quarters of them receive financial assistance.
Shepherd University is another of the top colleges in West Virginia. Among other things, the school has a strong graduation rate and provides an affordable education that helps minimize the need for student loans.
Although located in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, the university is only 90 minutes from Washington D.C. and Baltimore. It draws a significant percentage of its student body from these areas as well as Pennsylvania and Virginia. Overall, there are more than 3,500 students enrolled in Shepherd.
Founded in 1871, Shepherd University is a public institution. It has dozens of degree programs although its most popular options include recreation and sport studies, nursing education and business administration. The university also features small class sizes and a low student-faculty ratio.
Founded in 1837, a quarter of a century before the state was even admitted to the Union, West Liberty University produces some of the highest student success numbers in the state. It has strong retention and graduation rates while also providing generous financial aid to keep student costs affordable. More than 90 percent of those enrolled receive financial assistance.
It's the oldest of the West Virginia schools, but WLU says it is a forward-thinking institution. It strives to provide access to high quality academic programs while also encouraging excellence in all aspects of life.
There are six colleges and schools within West Liberty University. The school's more than 2,000 students get access to small class sizes and a personalized learning environment at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
As the only public college in the center of the state, some call Glenville State College the "Lighthouse on the Hill." As one the best West Virginia colleges, it offers small class sizes and an array of student support services.
GSC was established in 1872 to train future teachers, and education degrees continue to be a major focus at the school. However, it has also expanded to offer more than two dozen academic options. These include certificates, associate degrees and bachelor's degrees in addition to teacher education programs.
More than 1,500 students are enrolled at Glenville State College. They can participate in more than 40 student organizations and a dozen Division II athletic teams. There is also a High Adventure program that lets students enjoy the area's outdoor recreation to the fullest.
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|
|Home Health Aides||38.4%||2,010||$23,120|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||34.1%||250||$59,090|
|Personal Care Aides||32.6%||12,500||$20,760|
|Operations Research Analysts||29.3%||250||$56,640|
|Software Developers, Applications||29.1%||1,110||$87,490|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||28.5%||660||$49,830|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||26%||-||$61,190|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||24%||400||$58,530|
|Physical Therapist Aides||21.9%||160||$25,620|
|Mental Health Counselors||21.3%||-||-|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||20.1%||510||$61,740|
|Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors||19.8%||-||-|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||19.6%||350||$43,460|
|Therapists, All Other||18.5%||-||-|
|Information Security Analysts||18.4%||270||$84,620|
|Business Teachers, Postsecondary||18.1%||750||$66,340|
|Nonfarm Animal Caretakers||18.1%||900||$23,790|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||18%||1,010||$45,760|
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
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable for four years if recipient maintains required GPA.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable for four years if recipient maintains required GPA.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- WVU Facts, West Virginia University, Accessed April 2018, https://www.wvu.edu/about-wvu/wvu-facts
- Fast Facts, Wheeling Jesuit University, Accessed April 2018, http://www.wju.edu/about/fast-facts.html
- Wheeling Revealed, Wheeling Jesuit University, Accessed April 2018, http://wju.edu/admissions/wheeling-revealed/default.html
- Quick Facts, Marshall University, Accessed April 2018, http://www.marshall.edu/home/quick-facts
- Quick Facts, West Virginia Wesleyan College, Accessed April 2018, https://www.wvwc.edu/about/consumer-information/general-institutional-information/quick-facts/
- About Concord, Concord University, Accessed April 2018, https://www.concord.edu/about-concord/
- Online Programs, University of Charleston, Accessed April 2018, https://www.concord.edu/about-concord/
- UC Facts & Stats, Unviersity of Charleston, Accessed April 2018, http://www.ucwv.edu/About-UC/UC-at-a-Glance/Quick-Facts/
- Falcon Fast Facts, Fairmont State University, Accessed April 2018, https://www.fairmontstate.edu/aboutfsu/
- About Shepherd University, Shepherd University, Accessed April 2018, http://www.shepherd.edu/about-shepherd/quick-facts
- Fast Facts, West Liberty University, Accessed April 2018, https://westliberty.edu/admissions/learn-more/fast-facts/
- Quick Facts, Glenville State College, Accessed April 2018, http://www.glenville.edu/about/facts.php
- Scholarships, College Foundation of West Virginia, accessed April 21, 2017, https://secure.cfwv.com/Financial_Aid_Planning/Scholarships/Scholarships.aspx
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/