Education / Roundups

Here’s where PA universities rank on 2021’s lists of best online degree programs

Released Tuesday, U.S. News and World Report's annual lists feature a number of programs from local institutions.

Villanova University. (Courtesy photo)

A number of local and Pennsylvania-based degree programs appear on the U.S. News and World Report’s 2021 rankings of best online programs.

Released Tuesday, these annual lists compare more than 1,600 online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 3.3 million higher education students enrolled exclusively in distance education programs in fall 2018.

With the pandemic bringing virtual learning to the forefront, the lists have added importance. Note that they track programs that are 100% online and do not include programs that have adjusted to the pandemic by shifting to virtual.

“As in-person gatherings remain limited, we might see more interest in online degrees than in prepandemic years,” said Anita Narayan, managing editor of education at U.S. News, in a statement. “But online degrees aren’t only practical in the short term — distance education can also be conducive to a schedule that includes full-time work or other commitments.”

Each online undergraduate and graduate degree program was scored across four categories, weighted like this:

  • Engagement — 35%
  • Services and tech — 25%
  • Faculty credentials and training — 20%
  • Expert opinions from surveys of high-ranking academic officials — 20%

Here’s where local institutions, as well as those based elsewhere in Pennsylvania, appeared in a few of the categories:

Bachelor’s degrees

  • 10. Pennsylvania State University — World Campus
  • 42. Duquesne University
  • 86. Rutgers University Camden
  • 93. Drexel University and Saint Joseph’s University
  • 122. Neumann University
  • 144. Slippery Rock University
  • 152. Millersville University
  • 152. Peirce College
  • 164. La Salle University
  • 179. Geneva College
  • 204. California University of Pennsylvania
  • 223. Temple University
  • 246. Eastern University and St. Francis University
  • 256 to 337. Cedar Crest College, Chatham University, Mount Aloysius College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pittsburgh Technical College and Point Park University


  • 1. Carnegie Mellon University
  • 7. Pennsylvania State University — World Campus
  • 10. Lehigh University
  • 17. Villanova University
  • 51. West Chester University
  • 59. University of Pittsburgh
  • 67. Saint Joseph’s University
  • 88. Drexel University
  • 100. Temple University
  • 111. University of Scranton
  • 117. Clarion University of Pennsylvania and Shippensburg University
  • 143. DeSales University
  • 170. La Salle University
  • 192. California University of Pennsylvania
  • 215. Bloomsburg University
  • 224 to 295. Eastern University, Point Park University, St. Francis University

(It’s quite the tumble for Temple: The once yearly, joyous announcement of the top ranking from its Fox School of Business Online MBA program was actually caused by data manipulation, incorrect interpretations and knowing misreporting, according to a 2018 investigation.)

Computer information technology (master’s)

  • 14. Pennsylvania State University — World Campus
  • 21. Drexel University
  • 65. DeSales University

Engineering (master’s)

  • 4. Pennsylvania State University — World Campus
  • 37. Drexel University
  • 41. Villanova University
  • 46. Lehigh University
Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: University of Pittsburgh / Carnegie Mellon University / Drexel University / La Salle University / Lehigh University / Temple University / Villanova University

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