ASU on­line ranks No. 4

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Anne Ry­man

Ari­zona State Uni­ver­sity is ranked among the Top 5 in the coun­try for its on­line pro­grams, ac­cord­ing to an an­nual sur­vey by U.S. News & World Re­port.

One Ari­zona uni­ver­sity — and an­other with ties to the state — are ranked among the Top 5 in the coun­try for their on­line pro­grams, ac­cord­ing to a pop­u­lar sur­vey re­leased this week.

Ari­zona State Uni­ver­sity’s on­line bach­e­lor’s de­gree pro­grams were again ranked No. 4 in the coun­try, the same as last year, ac­cord­ing to the an­nual sur­vey by U.S. News & World Re­port.

The top three on­line pro­grams were Ohio State Uni­ver­sity, Florida’s Em­bryRid­dle Aero­nau­ti­cal Uni­ver­sity, which also has a phys­i­cal cam­pus in Prescott, and Tem­ple Uni­ver­sity in Philadel­phia.

This year’s Best On­line Bach­e­lor’s Pro­grams ranked 346 schools on fac­tors such as fac­ulty cre­den­tials, class size, grad­u­a­tion rates and stu­dent-loan debt. The sur­vey also con­sid­ered the sup­port ser­vices avail­able, the tech­no­log­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture and the pro­gram’s rep­u­ta­tion.

“The top pro­grams not only demon­strate strong aca­demics but also create learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments that are par­tic­u­larly well-suited to re­mote stu­dents,“said Anita Narayan, man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of education at U.S. News, in a state­ment.

In Ari­zona, North­ern Ari­zona Uni­ver­sity’s on­line bach­e­lor’s de­gree pro­gram was ranked No. 47 while Uni­ver­sity of Ari­zona’s was No. 56.

Some schools have ob­jected to the method­ol­ogy that U.S. News uses to cal­cu­late rank­ings and cho­sen not to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion for the pur­poses of be­ing eval­u­ated. For ex­am­ple, peer rep­u­ta­tion (how a uni­ver­sity is re­garded by top col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tors at other schools) makes up 20 per­cent of an on­line pro­gram’s score.

One of the state’s largest on­line providers, the pri­vate Grand Canyon Uni­ver­sity, again did not par­tic­i­pate in the U.S. News rank­ings this year be­cause of dis­agree­ments over the method­ol­ogy used, said Bob Ro­man­tic, a uni­ver­sity spokesman.

He added that the uni­ver­sity does par­tic­i­pate in other rank­ings that mea­sure learn­ing out­comes, such as the Col­lege Learn­ing As­sess­ment.

Grand Canyon has about 70,000 on­line stu­dents.

The Uni­ver­sity of Phoenix, also a pri­vate school, was not ranked in this year’s bach­e­lor’s de­gree sur­vey. Of­fi­cials did not re­spond to a call or email about whether the school par­tic­i­pated in the sur­vey.

On­line de­grees were once the spe­cialty of pri­vate, for-profit schools. But state-funded schools in­creas­ingly have ex­panded their on­line pro­grams.

All three state uni­ver­si­ties have put ad­di­tional em­pha­sis into on­line with the goal of boost­ing ac­cess to a col­lege de­gree, par­tic­u­larly for peo­ple who live in ru­ral ar­eas and can’t re­lo­cate to at­tend school.

About 31,000 stu­dents at­tend classes fully on­line through ASU On­line. En­roll­ment typ­i­cally grows by about 20 per­cent each year.

In 2014, ASU On­line launched an ini­tia­tive with Star­bucks to help the cof­fee giant’s em­ploy­ees com­plete col­lege de­grees. The Star­bucks pro­gram en­rolls about 8,000 stu­dents with a to­tal of 1,000 Star­bucks em­ploy­ees grad­u­at­ing as of De­cem­ber.

The goal is to even­tu­ally have up to 15,000 em­ploy­ees en­rolled at any time.

“We are ob­vi­ously grat­i­fied that we did well in the rank­ings,” said Phil Regier, the uni­ver­sity’s dean for education ini­tia­tives. “Rank­ings are inex­act, but they cer­tainly pro­vide us one mea­sure of progress and suc­cess.”

Many of the stu­dents en­rolled in ASU On­line work full time, live in small com­mu­ni­ties and likely wouldn’t at­tend col­lege if not for on­line pro­grams, he said.

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